An item in the May 2016 issue of Consumer Reports on Health reported that certain yoga poses significantly increased eye pressure according to a small study from the New York Eye and Ear Infirmary of Mount Sinai. Poses that pose a risk are where the head is down or legs are elevated above the head like:
Downward Facing Dog
Legs Up The Wall
Increased eye pressure can increase the risk of developing glaucoma or further damage the optic nerve for people who already have glaucoma.
What You Should Do
First, the study is small and may require further studies to validate the results. But, unlike studies done with mice, this study was done with people so there may be an inherent risk.
Yoga. like any other physical activity has its risks. I have experienced an unpleasant sensation in my head after doing Fish Pose. Not everyone experiences the same sensation. I avoid Fish Pose or do it for only a few breaths.
I do Legs Up The Wall and poses with my head down and have normal eye pressure. There are many factors that increase your risk for disease. While the study indicates some yoga poses can increase your risk of developing glaucoma it does not mean you will develop glaucoma.
There are many yoga poses where your head is down. If you have glaucoma and practice yoga talk to your eye doctor and ask your yoga teacher about modifying poses.
Another option if you have glaucoma or a family history of glaucoma, is going yoga poses where your head is not down or your legs raised above your head for extended periods of time. These poses include:
Upward Facing Dog
Most Sitting Poses