People With Glaucoma Must Avoid Head-Down Yoga Movements

by Reshma Anand on Jan 12 2016 4:34 PM

People With Glaucoma Must Avoid Head-Down Yoga Movements
Yoga seems to be the most opted form of exercise program among many people as it is a less tiring workout intervention.
A new study published in the Journal PLOS ONE revealed that individuals who have glaucoma must avoid certain yoga positions as it can increase their eye pressure.

Glaucoma is a silent irreversible vision killer that can lead to permanent vision loss. It damages the optic nerve due to increased fluid pressure inside the eyes. Elevated intraocular pressure (IOP) is the most common risk factor for glaucoma.

"While we encourage our patients to live active and healthy lifestyles, including physical exercise, certain types of activities, including pushups and lifting heavy weights, should be avoided by glaucoma patients due to the risk of increasing IOP and possibly damaging the optic nerve," said Dr. Robert Ritch, senior study author and the Shelley and Steven Einhorn Distinguished Chair and Director, Glaucoma Research, NYEE.

"This new study will help clinicians advise their patients on the potential risk associated with various yoga positions and other exercises that involve inverted poses," he added.

Researchers conducted the study among people who had no eye defects and glaucoma patients. The participants performed a series of inverted yoga positions, including downward facing dog, standing forward bend, plow, and legs on the wall. They captured the IOP in each group at baseline seated, immediately assuming the pose, two minutes while holding the pose, right after they performed each pose in the seated position, and then again 10 minutes after resting in the seated position.

Both normal and glaucoma study participants showed a rise in IOP in all four yoga positions, with the greatest increase in pressure occurring during downward facing dog. When the measurements were taken after the participants returned to a seated position and again after waiting ten minutes, the pressure in most cases remained slightly elevated from the baseline.

"While our study results don't show a dramatic difference in IOP between the normal participants and those with glaucoma, we believe that additional research, with a larger study population and longer durations of practicing the inverted positions is warranted," said first author Jessica Jasien, research associate with the Shelley and Steven Einhorn Clinical Research Center at NYEE.

"As we know that any elevated IOP is the most important known risk factor for development and progression of nerve damage to the eye, the rise in IOP after assuming the yoga poses is of concern for glaucoma patients and their treating physicians. In addition, glaucoma patients should share with their yoga instructors their disease to allow for modifications during the practice of yoga," she added.