In Need of Quick Stress Relief? Try Palming Your Eyes (Here’s How)

Although our precious hands don’t always get all the attention they deserve in modern yoga classes, they are a very sacred part of our bodies.

It is said and seen that healers (such as Reiki or spiritual masters) have used their hands to bring healing to our bodies and minds. If you’ve practiced a slow style of yoga like Yin or Restorative, you’ve probably tried placing your hands on your heart or your belly to experience how soothing your own hands can feel.

Often at the end of a yoga class while in a seated position, the teacher will invite you to rub your hands together. This will create heat. And then you place your hands on your eyes.

This is sometimes referred to as palming. Although it’s fairly common practice, it doesn’t always come with an explanation.

So why do we do this? Is there any meaning behind palming?


Sensory Perception and the Nervous System

From a scientific standpoint, our hands are filled with sensitive nerve endings. Those nerve endings allow us to feel skin contact and also to feel pain and temperature. They send messages to our nervous systems.

The nervous system allows our bodies to respond to various kinds of stimuli. It’s how we pull our hands back when we accidentally touch a burning hot surface and how we stay on high alert at night to finish that last bit of work our boss needs the next morning.

Our nervous systems also manage our relaxation levels and how much we’re able to give into rest and allow our muscles to loosen.

In our very active modern lives, it’s very easy to have our nervous systems on overdrive. This influences, among other things, the aging speed of our bodies and derails things such as digestion or our ability to produce essential hormones. Not exactly a recipe for the healthy life we’re after!

Soothe the Nervous System With Palming

According to Ayurveda, when our nervous systems are on overdrive, it means they (we) experience too much stress, movement, and – get this – cold.

That’s when we absolutely need to pause and find ways to calm ourselves down – and get warm. Knowing this, you can understand how rubbing your hands together to create heat is going to benefit your nervous system.

Palming your eyes puts a light pressure on a place that is on overdrive almost every minute of every day. From the blue light of our computers and phones to ads on TV, at the supermarket, or on billboards, our eyes are quite literally like windows open to stimulation at all times.

When we practice exercises like palming eyes, what we’re actually experiencing is Deep Pressure Stimulation (or DPS). DPS refers to putting firm (but gentle) pressure on a part of your body.


The Power of Deep Pressure Stimulation for Quick Stress Relief in Yoga and Beyond

DPS helps your body to leave a state of high alert. When you’re in a state of high alert, your sympathetic nervous system (SNS) is working. The SNS manages your “fight or flight” response. Once you leave this high-alert state, you enter into a state of “rest and digest” when your parasympathetic nervous system (PNS) takes over.

A lot of the time, our bodies work on the sympathetic nervous system, which is why simple moments like palming your eyes at the end of a yoga class can feel so relaxing. It works a bit like an internal light switch – as if you dimmed the lights inside your mind and body.

Do you feel particularly more at ease in your body when teachers walk to you during Savasana to apply pressure on your forehead, your temples, or your shoulders? Can you feel how soothing a long, loving hug can be? Do you feel particularly peaceful after a winter night spent under those old, heavy blankets?

That’s the magic of DPS. To fight overwhelm, stress, or anxiety, doctors might even recommend sleeping with weighted blankets, which imitate DPS.

Practice This Simple Palming Eyes Exercise for Quick Stress Relief:

Rub your hands together for a few seconds. Feel the little tingle in your palms and fingers. And place your warm palms over your eyes. For a moment, appreciate this instant darkness and peace for your overstimulated eyes.

Feel the firm pressure you apply onto your eyelids. Relax your gaze and your shoulders, and let air move freely in and out of your lungs. Stay here for as long as you’d like.

This palming eyes action is said to be like a message you’re sending to your body to activate your energy to be ready to receive and come into the now.

And when you allow yourself to come to the here and now, you automatically allow yourself to let go of worries about the past or the future. And, of course, this also helps to soothe your nervous system.

In Need of Quick Stress Relief? Give Palming a Try!

Hands are said to be healing. However, their power isn’t limited to spiritual masters. Everyone can use their own hands to heal themselves and/or others.

Had a long workday? Feeling a little overwhelmed or anxious? Can’t sleep?

Play some soothing music and repeat this palming eyes exercise on your own. Create some heat with your hands and place your palms over your eyes.

Enjoy the calming benefits, and share it with your loved ones. If you’re a teacher, try it at the end of your next class!

Need more quick stress relief in your life? Practice Yoga For Stress Relief: De-Stress With This 30-Minute Yoga Sequence

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Ely Bakouche

Ely is a writer and editorial director at Shut Up & Yoga magazine. She’s a yogi, world traveler, life student, and language nerd. She believes in the power of change, and likes to look at it through words and ideas. You can find more of her work on her multilingual platform, EB's Notebook, where she writes about social responsibility, creativity, slow living, traveling, and more. She currently lives in Shanghai, China.

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