Yoga Inversions and Retinal Tears

by DB on January 11, 2012


With the recent storm in the media about the various “dangers” of yoga to the body, one thing caught my eye more than anything else, retinal tears were mentioned.

This is not the first time I have heard of retinal tears or detached retinas linked to yoga inversions.  As I have a personal occurrence of this (twice) I thought my experience would be valuable to teachers and students alike.

What is it?

First a very amateurish explanation of a retinal tear – I am not after all an eye surgeon but having discussed this with three top ones I think I can explain it in laymans terms.

In it’s simplest form the eye is a round ball with jelly (called the vitreous) inside.  The retina is a light-sensitive tissue lining the inner surface of the eye.  The optics of the eye create an image of the visual world on the retina, which serves much the same function as the film in a camera.

In your sight everything is upside down so the TOP part of the back of eye represents your LOWER field of vision and vice versa. (this is important to understand)

People who are myopic (short sighted) with a HIGH NEGATIVE (-) numbered eyesight prescription have an increasing egg shaped eyeball which is less stable. The jelly can pull away from the sides of the wall (through head traumas, age, or other things) of the inner eyeball and sometimes tear pieces of the retina with it.

Signs of retinal detachment can vary from flashing lights, flickering or a distinctive “shadow” in the eye.  It can tear slowly but requires quick action to save loss of vision. With today’s technology it can be fixed (several options depending on severity etc) If it is not rectified loss of sight will occur.

What Happened

My original retinal detachment in my belief was acerbated by a headstand workshop.  In any teacher training prolonged inversions are a precaution or even a prohibition for people who have had this condition Having not had a detachment before and not knowing all the above stuff I didn’t think about my risks.

I will point out CLEARLY that I have a HUGE predisposition to this happening, here is why:

  • My nearsightedness was over -13 in one eye (VERY shortsighted) giving me an egg shaped eyeball, less stable with loads of room for stuff to bump about in
  • I had lens replacement surgery for vision as my eyes eventually rejected contact lenses which I had worn since I was 8 years old. This gives a higher risk for retinal detachment as its invasive.
  • I’d had vitreal detachment that didn’t tear the retina years before (where jelly pulls away from the inner eye)
  • I also did huge amounts of “headbanging” (eg to rock music) in my 20s and 30s eg shaking the jelly around as well as my booty!

So why do I think the headstand workshop acerbated this if there were so many other factors?

The symptoms were starting on the way home…slowly. It took me a week to see that it was happening and only then because I am very aware.  They fixed it with a scleral “buckle” (external band aid if you will).

The tear was against gravity, the shadow in my eye was in the top of the field of vision, meaning the bottom part of my retina had been torn. So the jelly had pulled upwards (when I was upside down) This is my theory.

I have asked 3 top surgeons and they disagree but I just have a strong feeling about it.  My strong feeling got me to the hospital quickly before the symptoms were really noticeable.

I had another tear next to the same site recently which required invasive surgery.  The explanation was that the original buckle failed or became weak.  Since the original tear I do not do prolonged inversions.

So what do I think now?

It would be very short sighted of me to blame headstands or indeed dismiss a possible link altogether. But I have no firm conclusion, just an experience to share.

Who knows, I’m not the only one to link this to prolonged yoga inversions. All I like to do is share the information and I DO think that teachers should be aware that people with very high myopia should be very careful with prolonged inversions.


{ 49 comments… read them below or add one }

Su Menon January 11, 2012 at 11:07 pm

Excellent article-you write extremely well”


Olivia February 24, 2016 at 1:02 pm

Hi, Just got a beginning of this problem found out today. It is still not to be taken care of, but doc. told me to observe my eye in these days….and if I see a black curtain appearing to the side, go back to her fast. For now I have been having floaters for months, then none of them for months…and yesterday flashes of light and floaters…..I would like to keep my headstands but may be for shorter time rather then the usual 25 breaths. Do you still do them? They are my favourite…:(((


Deirdra February 26, 2016 at 11:31 pm

Sorry to hear Olivia, no I don’t do them but I do did ward dog held for 5 breaths at a time. Good luck!


Teagan March 1, 2012 at 11:26 pm

Thanks for your sharing your personal experience. I’m 29 but had a retinal tear in my right eye when I was about 13 years-old. I have 20/20 vision but see an eye doctor once a year since the tear was found. At last month’s visit, my doctor thought he saw a hole in my left eye (not the one with the tear) and sent me to a retinal specialist. Both doctors said my eyes were fine (it was just a pigment variation) but if I saw an increase in floaters or any flashes to call right away. I had been seeing tiny flashes for about a week (I didn’t follow directions completely) and decided last week to call my regular doctor. I went in and again, everything looked ok but he instructed that I call the specialist again just to see if he too wanted to see me. Today, I went in to see the specialist and he said I was fine but asked if I had been doing any increased activity. I’m a fairly active person but twice a week Vinyasa classes (90 mins each) is new for me. He thinks the inverted poses could be causing the “jelly” to pull on my retina. He instructed me to not even do down dog! Now I’m not even to shoulder standing yet but regardless, removing down dog from my practice seems a bit of a drastic measure. Then again, these are my eyes! My grandfather, a self-taught artist (among many things) had macular degeneration (he couldn’t see the center of his vision) so I don’t want to take this lightly. Do you still do down dog? What modifications have you made to your practice?



Deirdra March 2, 2012 at 12:07 am

Gosh a tear at 13 with no predisposition? Seems strange. I have just returned to practise after last detachment where I had the gas bubble put in the eye to push and seal the retina back, successfully. The jelly is gone from that eye now but of course I always have the other which could pull. ALWAYS go if you see a shadow or flashing or more floaters, I went quickly this is why I have only a tiny blur in my peripheral vision now. You must trust your instinct, the specialist was surprised I even spotted mine but I stay very aware.
I am not able to advise medically but I do not do headstand ever now but I do forward folds which are inversions! I never stay in down dog for more than five breaths at a time. I have relaxed my Ashtanga practise so not as many dogs as less Vinyasas. It is very interesting this specialist is saying this as I do think there is something in it. You could do modified dog by keeping the head more up (looking at ground instead of back towards feet) but watch you don’t strain neck or scrunch your shoulders. Draw the shoulder blades down the back. When I was recuperating after 6 weeks off I did extended Childs pose to get the shoulder stretch. I know it’s incredibly worrying but there are lots of lovely postures that don’t invert fully.
All the very best of luck x


Myron Joshua December 19, 2012 at 12:34 pm

I saw your comment at Jennifer Repo’s blog at Huffington…and now this… Many thanks As more and more “elders” (60+) are taking interest in Yoga it is critical that teacher learn about the “hidden” dangers of people with myopia. (Holding breath, downward facing dog and other inversions, swinging the head in Cat/Cow, etc)
Doctors who are also encouraging us to “be active”, excercise, etc should also be more forthcoming with advice and percautions.


Deirdra December 19, 2012 at 2:35 pm

Thanks Myron, only too pleased to share my experience if it helps anyone at all, I was at a conference recently and none of the yoga teachers had heard of this at all but one had had a detached retina herself! Aside from the normal post-op advice she wasn’t given anything further. I’d love to research it further and properly rather than ad hoc anecdotal evidence but currently I do not have the time 🙁
I have had quite a lot of anatomy and physiology training aside from just yoga teacher training and my emphasis is always on safety. Having said that I had a wonderful experience recently with helping a young student who was completely ready and prepared to achieve her headstand 🙂 I have no postures that I rule out – everyone is an individual, what is important assessing them as such.


Meena Modi August 10, 2012 at 4:31 pm

I recommend that you read my recent blog post cited below. One study gives pictures of a woman’s eye before she began “postural yoga”, after it, and then a year after she had stopped it. It is quite telling. More will be posted on the effects of several positions.

Having just had a retinal tear myself, making people more aware of the dangers of inversions is quite important. I have very high myopia and am therefore in a higher risk group for tears and detachments and have known this for a long time. But anyone can have these issues according to the ophthalmologists and retinologists (some are family and friends) that I have spoken to and consulted with. I have seen my children’s friends in their 20s suddenly, for no apparent reason, have a retinal detachment.

Inversions of any kind, and there are many in yoga, do pose a special elevated risk. I was fortunately never taught headstand, handstand, and other challenging asanas in India–they were not taught to anyone in a general raja yoga class and especially not to beginners. High impact yoga is relatively new and poses threats to joints and eyes as well. Now they are routine in classes across the US. We were aware of the limitations and contraindications of these positions. So I have never done them or taught them in 30 years of teaching yoga, meditation, and yoga therapy. Now I am not even allowed sun salutations for a couple of months, no bending forward from the waist, no squats, no asanas and no breath retentions. Downward dogs can pose an issue and certainly they cannot be held for more than 10 seconds. Doctors in the family are very knowledgeable about these issues. Consulting a knowledgeable doctor is important as every situation is different.

On my blog,, I have just posted “Headstand Inversions And Glaucoma” which cites and links to clinical studies that clearly indicate the potential danger to the eye with sirsasana. I will be posting more on the eye, retinal tears and detachments. Our local yoga centers pay no attention to these issues, do not teach this important information in teacher training programs, and this is a serious issue. Teachers and yoga practitioners in my experience have repeatedly pooh-poohed, ignored, been a little disdainful about the cautions/contraindications of a whole range of asanas and pranayamas when they are clearly pointed out–but people do so at their own peril. Retinologists routinely ask their patients if they have been practicing yoga and inversions because of the number of problems they see resulting from them. Ditto for physical therapists who routinely see patients due to yoga injuries to the back, shoulders, neck, and hip.


Deirdra September 14, 2012 at 11:19 pm

Thank you for this information and I am glad to see serious study on the issue. Three top eye surgeons disputed it could have anything to do with my two tears but I still maintain my position about the risks. Thank you again for the information.


spiros chryssanthakopoulos September 14, 2012 at 10:53 pm

Hi, my name is spiros and I am 51 years old. I am myopic since a very young age.
I am also very fit. I was doing handstands for 15 min and when I finished I saw a on the top of my left eye. I immediatelly realised that I had damaged my retina and I self admitted myself to the EYE & EAR HOSPITAL IN MELBOURNE.
I had an operationon 7 September 2012 and now I am fine. I completely agree with you that prolonged inversions might cause these type of problems


Deirdra September 14, 2012 at 11:17 pm

Thank you very much Spiros for your information, despite surgeons disputing this when I bring it up I still believe it to be true and just want to warn practitioners and teachers of the risks especially if they are myopic, I do not believe there has been formal study on the linkage. Thanks again and I hope you are to resume and enjoy your practise with adaptations. I am still very careful after a second tear in one eye which required the insert of the gas bubble to rectify (10 days of lying in the same position is not fun but to save your sight it was a miracle), I do know I am very predisposed.


spiros chryssanthakopoulos September 15, 2012 at 9:30 am

I would like to thank you as well for developing such a site where we can all share our knowledge/experience. Thank you also for your wishes for a quick recovery. In actual fact, I have already recovered mainly because I did not use the 3 different described medical eye drops which are full of serious side effects and they can even cause blidness. You can confirm this by googling side effects of the name of the eye drops.Naturally, I had to prepare my own drops. Your predisposition can be also reversed by some lifestyle changes. If you want to learn more, please feel free to conact me on 0408 532 914, for free. I am a lifestyle coach and I teach people how to live a balanced life free of drugs and other addictions. Take care, Spiros


gold account September 27, 2012 at 9:42 am

Note that nearsightedness (myopia) are at a higher risk of retinal tears and detachments due to the possible thinning of the retina.


Val April 11, 2013 at 8:13 pm

I am so very pleased to have found this site. I am 49 year young beginner to yoga. I had been going every day for about a month to “hot yoga”, as well as strength training with a personal trainer at the gym. Two weeks ago I had a detached retina. I asked EVERYONE I could if my inversions (downward dog, forward fold, rag doll, etc) had anything to do with my detachment. They all said NO. I have the gas bubble in my eye and is almost gone (now the size of a regular contact, if I look down). I would be SO very disappointed if yoga was the cause of my detachment. I actually thought blowing up many balloons might have been the cause. (I work with kids and use them to entertain them). That might have been a factor. I am so in love with my yoga practice, and love the hot yoga classes. I look forward to everyone’s thoughts regarding this.
Namaste, 🙂


Deirdra April 11, 2013 at 9:31 pm

Hi Val I am really very sorry to hear this, I know how stressful it can be and the bubble surgery requires longer healing. I cannot categorically say if yoga was the cause – but as I mentioned I quizzed some serious eye surgeons and doctors – they all passed it off – but I have had it twice and one after a headstand workshop – I encountered this more often from talking to people and recently met yet another yogi who got one after an intensive. However Just as I will not say this caused it, I think it is irresponsible for anyone to say it doesn’t.

It’s your sight after all, and we are really lucky these days there are options to save it.

I have gone back to downward dog without holding my head up (I faced the floor so head was level for a while which strained my neck!), I don’t hold forward folds too long nor anything inverted too long – you can still practise – I do every day.

Think about your prior risk factors (if any)

Good Luck


Spencer May 2, 2015 at 11:16 pm

I’m 55 and just had successful surgery for retinal detachment. Before the tear I had two things going against me: 1. very nearsighted, and 2. cataract surgery in both eyes 2 years previously. I don’t know for sure what caused my tear, but I first noticed blurring after a headstand in a hot yoga class. I had signed up for a 10 day trial and decided I prefer cool yoga. Dehydration was possibly a third strike against me.
Like you, I was making a lot of progress in my practice, particularly handstands, and my ego doesn’t want to let go! Whatever the actual cause, common sense tells me to avoid inversions for life, but I’m still searching to see if it is safe to eventually return to them. Currently I feel pressure on my eye once my head tips below my waist, so even downward dog is out.
The great news is that Western medicine is so awesome it treated what would have been certain blindness 3 times had I lived 100 years ago. The doctors have to rely on self reporting yoga practitioners before it will get studied, so let them know.


Deirdra December 28, 2015 at 6:10 pm

Very similar situation to me! And yes aren’t we lucky medical advances are so good.


brigitte May 28, 2013 at 2:31 pm

Hi everybody,
THANKS FOR SUCH A LOT OF USEFUL INFORMATIION ! I had a serios ret. detachment requiring 2 op`s last winter, now it seems to be ok but my sight is worse, of course, and I am really scared it will happen again.
When I went back to my yoga class last week I was asked by my teacher to consult my eye doctor if it was ok for me to practice yoga .-As my dr. is surely no expert in these matters, just a good eye dr., I consulted a yoga teacher plus healing specialist (natural medicine etc, very experienced but no medical dr) and she said: no inversions below hip level, that should be the rule for those with eye problems as high pressure (as I still have it, taking drops), glaucoma etc.
What do you think ?
Best wishes from Berlin, Germany


Deirdra May 28, 2013 at 3:42 pm

Hi Brigitte

Sorry to hear about this – its not a nice operation and it looks like your sight was affected, that is very distressing of course.

I’m not a medical practitioner, that I want to make clear 🙂

But true, on my teacher trainings we were taught inversions were a contraindication for glaucoma. This is the case for Dr/GP Exercise Referral which I am qualified in as well. The hip level was a guide.

I think you need to play it safe really and follow this advice. The main thing as well is that you are fully aware of any symptoms and get to the hospital right away if you notice any, the technology is so advanced now if you catch it in time they can usually prevent any more damage to your sight.

You can still do yoga, I know it is frustrating but its all part of the journey. I have found injury and limitations to truly be when I found most pleasure in my practise as I had to explore it in more depth to find what worked for me…Adapt…Be flexible!!




Robyn June 17, 2013 at 12:04 am

Thank you for starting this discussion. I’ve been to 50+ optomologist web sites to try and find information on inversions and retinal detachments. Very few even address the subject. My doctor says their’s no connection.

I have been doing vinyasa yoga for 10 years. Arm balances and inversions are a big part of my practice. I also have been using a back swing (inversion table) daily. I gradually built up to being able to hang upside down for 10 minutes. I believe this may have played a role despite my surgeon’s opinion.

I had a retinal detachment repair two weeks ago. I’m only mildly near-sighted and have no other risk factors except my age…I’m 59.

Yoga is a huge part of my life and I’m so afraid I might never be able to to practice without being fearful of this happening again.

Thanks for listening.


Deirdra June 17, 2013 at 1:23 am

Hi Robyn

I’m really sorry to hear of your experience, I know myself it’s very frIghtening and when yoga is a big part of your life, I’m a teacher as well, it’s a distressing thing.

Look I’ve consulted with three of the best retinal specialists in the UK and they kind of pooh poohed the idea there was a link but I still maintain some certainty there is.

Your sight is such a precious thing, I want to see my children’s faces smile clearly, I have adapted, I think I still take minor risks, it’s about balance…yoga is so much more than our physical practice…I’d bought an inversion trapeze before the last time, I just won’t use it even though I know it would do wonders for other bits of my body.

My daughter was showing me her hanging upside down on the monkey bars today, I wanted to do it and look at each other upside down, I just won’t do a full upside down blood the head inversion anymore for more than a few seconds.

All I can say is find the bits that don’t create fear, your practice should be free from anxiety otherwise it’s no good to anyone.

Namaste Robyn


Robyn June 19, 2013 at 6:49 pm

Your reply brought tear to my eyes Deirdra. Your right, nothing is worth risking your sight.

I had my husband get rid of my inversion table, I just couldn’t look at it anymore. No great loss. It’s yoga that I’m worried about. Their’s so much conflicting information on the internet regarding recovery time.

My surgeon isn’t much help. He says I can get back to everything except jogging (which I don’t do anyway) but just “take it easy”. I did a few weights yesterday, but as you know the fear was so over whelming I really didn’t feel very good about it.

It’s so nice to talk to someone who has gone through this.
Thanks again for your insight and encouragement.


Deirdra June 20, 2013 at 8:47 am


I have been in touch with our cities Eye Research team – it is really annoying me now that there is so little formal evidence or advice out there and my own surgeons (three high profile ones) kind of dismissed this issue. I’ll see what they say and share it here if I come up with anything. In almost every teacher training or workshop I have been on not only were there incidences of detachment or tears BUT none of the teachers seem to be clued into the risks. There are basic guidelines on glaucoma contraindications but that is it.

Any I’ll see what they come back with.



Robyn July 3, 2013 at 1:19 am


I’m now one month out from retinal detachment surgery. I’ve been back to yoga, but I’m very careful not to hold any of the inversions for long. I’m also taking your advise about holding my head up in downward dog…at least for now.

Saw my surgeon today. I asked him if their had been any studies re: retinal tears/detachments related to prolonged inversions. His answer was “Their’s just not enough interest.” I want to believe their’s no connection, but like you, I’m just not sure and I’m not willing to take that chance.

Take Care,



Deirdra July 3, 2013 at 8:04 am

Hi Robyn

Glad to hear you are managing your situation well. One month is not a long time though so take it easy. And watch your neck! I got a sore neck with that adaptation in DD but better than worrying about the eyes 🙂

I found this study
which is a clear indication there is some connection, well for glaucoma and increased pressure anyway….I approached the University with a view of collaborating but not interested, there is a level of arrogance or lack of interest which I’m surprised about – yoga is a multi billion dollar industry and so many people practise it that simple medical research and guidance would be valuable – after all I was told “no limitations whatsoever” by 3 surgeons…and this is not limited to yoga, people go “upside down” in other area of their life (life I will not go on those G-force roller coasters either now, not that I miss them!) I think you just have to listen to your body and trust your instinct.

Best regards


Jenny Stedman July 14, 2013 at 5:56 pm

I was diagnosed with a detached retina 3 weeks ago.
5 consultants at the University of Wales had not seen a similar detachment.
The retina had detached from the bottom up and I had to return a week later.
The 6th consultant decided to operate but after a week I had no sight in the eye and the registrar I saw last week said the retina had lifted again.
I am going back tomorrow but fear that my macular is damaged.
I have been doing both Yoga and pilates 3 times weekly with a lot of inversions.


Deirdra July 14, 2013 at 6:11 pm


I am so sad very sad to hear this – did they not operate quickly? It is imperative to catch away!

Please feel free to ring again – Tuesday night is best probably

Kind regards and best wishes



Jenny Stedman August 8, 2013 at 3:21 pm

I found a book of mine from 1990 ” Yoga for Common Ailments” by Dr R Nagarathna Dr HR Nagendra and Dr Robin Munro based on the system developed by Vivekananda Kendra Yoga Research Foundation Bangalore.The chapter on eye problems states AVOID INVERTED ASANAS if you have a tendency to DETACHED RETINA.It also states that the over contraction of the eye muscles distorts the shape of the eyeball and gives advice on reducing strain and building up the stamina of the eye muscles.


Jenny August 8, 2013 at 3:31 pm

I have just been reading” Yoga For Common Ailments” DR R Nagarathna , Dr H R Nagendra ,Dr Robin Monro.Gaia Books 1990 which states AVOID INVERTED ASANAS IF YOU HAVE A TENDENCY TO DETACHED RETINA .


Deirdra August 8, 2013 at 11:05 pm

Thank you Jenny, shame its not commonly communicated, I had a small procedure and the consultant said anecdotally he believes complete inversions are a huge risk factor for high myopic patients, this guy sees 8-10 people a day so I think he knows what he is talking about and experiencing with people but still the person treating me said “no dos or don’ts fallowing this”! Astounding…


Beverly August 13, 2013 at 10:42 pm


I recently had my annual eye check-up. I was told I do have a think retina and if I ever see floaters or flashes of light to see my eye dr. immediately. I didn’t notice anything of the sort. I noticed random stuff in my vision but didn’t think anything of it. Until yesterday during my check-up my eye dr. noticed a small hole and some fluid in my eye. They sent me to a Retinal Specialist to check me right away. The Retinal Specialist said that we caught it early where the treatment I had to undergo was Laser photocoagulation. It was a very uncomfortable procedure. I am near-sighted and I have a very thin retina. My dr. asked me if I did any activities that would cause lots of pressure in my head/eyes. I have started doing different heated/hot yoga classes for the past 4 months. Have recently been doing inversions more frequently as I get stronger. He says that the pressure could have caused the hole in my retina. He said there has been studies linking retinal damage from yoga. I want to believe that it is not true as I have grown to love yoga. He said that all I can do is walk, stationary bike or swimming for excercise. I am 35 y/o and I am very active and before yoga I have done other strenuous workouts like bootcamp, martial arts and circuit training. Now, I am told that I cannot do anything where I exert pressure to my eyes or bearing down. I am very disappointed and trying to do my own research. I haven’t found any factual studies. I am glad I am not alone in looking for answers. I just wanted to share my experience. Please continue to share and as I find any info I will too.



Deirdra August 14, 2013 at 1:13 pm

Hi Beverly

Sorry to hear this but heartened in a way that your eye doctor realised there may be a connection. I think there must be – look at all the people commenting here, I get phone calls about it too (I’m not an eye doctor!) and it is very distressing. I have posted a link above on a study done a while back. My MAIN reason for believing the connection is that I had a nontypical non gravity tear in the retina, e.g. it was against gravity, the hole/tear was at the bottom of my eye (causing a top down shadow) and therefore I think acerbated by inversions.

You can do a beautiful yoga practise without full inversions, I am not sure of your particular situation and it looks like there may be some pressure issues as well – glaucoma is a clear contraindication for inversions – but you will be able to do things!! Just don’t go crazy, respect your body and be so very thankful your sight was saved. Sounds like you caught it early and had an excellent treatment. You like myself have a LONG way to go with those eyes. Yoga is about adapting and being flexible. 🙂

All the best



Mark January 28, 2014 at 6:46 pm

I had a similar occurance from using an Inversion Table. I had hung on it for about 10 minutes. About an hour later a shadow on my lower eye began which indicated the top of my eye was tearing.

I went the next day and had to have a bubble put in the eye then 3 days later the more serious surgery with the band around my eye.

Do not stand on your head or use inversion tables without having an eye doctor examine closely your eyes for scarring or other problems.


Terence May 3, 2014 at 5:29 pm

I have a high mytopia (-11), am a yoga practitioner and martial artist. I’m not an expert but have done much research into this as a few years ago I had chronic floaters in both eyes.

I’m not an expert, but when it comes to operations to correct mytopia, it seems like there are many side effects. Two people I know who were chronically short sighted, experienced problem after laser surgery.

The advice given to yoga practitioners is, don’t practice inversions if you have an existing retinal tear or detachment. Yo didn’t have either of those and the advice for PVD’s is mixed. Some say there’s an increased risk of retinal detachment, some say there is less as the eye has peeled away from the retina.
What is clear is that those with a high mytopia are more prone to eye problems, something I wasn’t aware of when I was entering martial arts tournaments in my early 20’s.

It is possible that inversions caused your retina to detach, but I’d say more likely as a result of surgery than your mytopia.

What I’d recommend practicing, is chi gung for the eye. This will help strengthen your eyes by promoting the flow of chi to the area.

I wish you and others all the best with this.


Kibeth May 15, 2014 at 2:52 pm

Dear all,

I would like to thank you all for taking the time to write on this forum, it is very much appreciated for people, like me, who have similar problem, and intuitions regarding this problem, like you all do.

I hope you guys will see this message, as it has been months since the last post…

I am a 24 year old male.
I had a retinal tear about 2 and a half years ago, which I discovered, by noticing a huge increase in my floaters, luckily it was the stat of the summer, and the clear skies made it easier to identify them!
I was immediately treated with lazer photocoagulation treatment, I think that is what it was called, basically where the lazer welds back together parts of the retina which are tearing, or ripping from my eye, so that the tears do not get bigger and lead to a detachment.
I am originally French, living in the UK, and have been followed ever since by a retina specialist in Paris. This tear occurred inmy right eye, I am quite badly short sighted (-7.50) for the right eye and (8.50) in my left eye.
I have an issue called a coloboma of the eye for the left eye, regardless of its near-sightedness, the blurred vision I have with it (with my right eye shut) will always be blurry, no correction can correct it, no medical surgery or intervention exists to correct this… however with a proper correction my right eye near-sightedness can be corrected – so I entirely depend on my right eye to see – unfortunately the retinal tear occurred in my right eye… 🙁 but it was caught early and treated.
It is also apparently very rare for someone my age to get such issues with their eyes, doctors have told me that this is most likely becase of being born with fragile eyes, and my strong near-sightedness. This retina specialist has told me that he would expect this in a old man, not a healthy youngster… which is why my intuition on the yoga inversions – retina detachments was reinforced by reading your posts here – as none of you seem to be elderly, but more middle aged, but have retina problems, and practice yoga, and in some cases have near-sightedness as a predisposition… so it seems that retinal detachments, which can happen naturally with old age as the body deteriorates) may happen earlier than average for those who do inversions.
Now I need to be EXTRA careful with how I treat my eyes, and this right eye which is the only eye which can give me clear vision, until someone comes up with eye transplants – then everyone can just go and do 1h head stands! 😀 haha… bad joke? wooops)

The retina specialist has always been surprised at why my retina is so fragile, and says that he wants to keep an eye on certain areas of my retina, which is why I go back home to see him once or twice a year. I also stopped playing rugby, as due to his amazement as to why I had this fragile retina he was asking me questions like have you had any serious head traumas (which I haven’t) I always used to wear a helmet for rugby, and can remember seeing ‘stars’ in my vision a few times in my life as a result of banging my head, or something, so nothing substantial.
I was only forbidden to do boxing! but then at the time I had no idea about yoga or anything.. I am seeing him next month and will see if he is aware of inversions and retinal detachments and I will report back.

Also does anyone recommend any retina specialists in the UK, as this is where I live, and going to france specifically for this reason is a bit inconvenient, although I will always go back go back there for follow-ups as that’s where I started off, I would also like to have a link to a good specialist in the UK – I live in Bristol, and have no problem going to London.

I have literally just started Iyengar yoga practice, with 3 lessons only, and I am growing extremely fond of it. And the inversions, they look amazing, the very little yoga I have dine has made my body feel so good (as I feel that it is very tense, and needs stretching), I cant wait to do them… at least I thought so, but now I don’t think that I should even attempt doing any full inversions…

What triggered my intuition about inversions and retinal detachments, was just before my first Iyengar class I had to sign a medical form, and had to place a tick my any previous medical conditions, and there was retinal detachments. Then I did the session, and observing the people doing head stands, and shoulder stand, I was not allowed being new, I started to feel that perhaps because of all the inversions in this yoga practice it was necessary to list retinal detachment for yoga… so in a way, contrary to what some of you have said there does seem to be some knowledge about the possible links… bt maybe this is just a way from the yoga club not to be responsible if you do hurt yourself… who knows?
I spoke to my teacher, told her about it, and she doent know about it, but had the same intuition as me, and said that anyway there is a lot I can do that doesn’t require inversions! 😀

are shoulder stand considered full inversions? (for those of you who have experience in yoga, do you feel the shoulder stand gives a lot of pressure to the head, inside of the head, eyes? would you say there is reduced pressure when using ‘blocks’ to perform the shoulder stand?
Obviously headstand and hand stand, and hanging upside down I know should probably not be performed…)

Have any of you adapted your practice to not do inversions, or only hold them for a few seconds? It seems to me that Iyengar yoga is about holding position for a long time, but perhaps other types of yoga, as I have been told, are more ‘flowing’, and these practices see a benefits through holding inversions for only a short period of time…?

What would I be missing out from not doing inversions? What are the benefits from inversions?
Could I get the benefits from inversions, by doing something else?

On another note – for those of you who are near-sighted, and who practice yoga, have you noticed a difference when practicing yoga with or without glasses? I have a feeling, that in some circumstances, being heavily near-sighted, that is-having very blurred vision without glasses, can sometimes be exploited as an advantage. The advantage I think it may have, is that this blurred vision will make it easier to ‘lose visual focus’. in a way that you are not concentrating on anyting visual, so that you can focus on the feeling in your body, your breathing, etc, perhaps to make it easier to internalise yourself and look within, seeing that looking out brings nothing clear. Sometimes, I find that my vision is more ‘comfortable’ without corrected clear vision, and I don’t have to concentrate or look at anything specific… does this make sense?
I try to take positives, out of what might be felt as a negative 🙂

I am still keen to practice yoga as I am only starting, please share any tips with me, the beginner with a fragile retina! 🙂

Thank you all,

Take care.


Deirdra December 28, 2015 at 6:15 pm

For some reason these posts didn’t alert me I hope that you’ve resolved your answers! My retinal specialist in the UK is Dr Stanga, he’s world class, but disappointingly dismisses the potential of inversions in detachment (as I’ve mentioned previously) however I’d still say he is the best.

Shoulder stand is most definitely an inversion, I only hold it for a very short time (actually just to demonstrate) and I can sometimes feel the ocular pressure rise a bit. I have resumed downward dog though.


Kibeth May 15, 2014 at 3:07 pm

Dear All,

For the Attention of Deirdra,

Thank you for giving us that link 🙂 very much appreciated,

However I cannot access the link with Dr Valdivia detailed answers… the link does not seem to be working… do you know how I could get access to those answers? I am very interested.

Thank you,

all the best, and Take care.


ankit August 23, 2014 at 12:59 pm

Hi All, Thanks a ton for valuable information on eye related issues due to headstand (Sheersasan).
I recently read about health benefits of headstand and thought of doing it myself, however wanted to be doubly sure if/what risks are involved. I had myopia (-2.5) and got a laser surgery done, about 4.5 years back in January 2010. Suggest, If I can do headstand or other inverted asanas.


Deirdra August 23, 2014 at 9:41 pm

Hi 🙂
It’s not my place nor am I qualified to tell you if this is ok for you but all risks considering (low myopia) you should be ok, I’d be more concerned that you get proper tuition and strength build up to support your spine in headstand.


Bobby October 25, 2014 at 7:30 pm

Almost two weeks I was diagnosed with a retinal year in both eyes.y left eye underwent immediate surgery (buckle, laser, gas) while my right eye was treated with laser with plans to have surgery at a later date. After my one week consultation, my left eye is beginning to heal and miraculously my right eye no longer requires surgery as it is healing on its own. I am free to resume day to day activities but I can’t do anything that causes too much exertion.

I stumbled upon your website because I’m an active yoga practitioner and I really enjoy inversions, which are a main part of my practice. I also am myopic and my grandmother had detatched retinas when she was 40. I asked my surgeon if I could go back to doing yoga, including inversions, and he said I could in time. But now reading this, I’m not so sure.

I’m only 33 years old so this kind of came out of nowhere. I also like to run a lot, so maybe that weakened my retinas, although nothing was advised against. I really am nervous about continuing my inversion practice because I don’t want to give it up, BUT I don’t want to go through this again. So thank you for sharing your experience and I will proceed with both eyes open. 🙂


Rachel May 31, 2015 at 9:34 am

Trust your intuition – if it feels risky, don’t do it.

In Dec 2013 (when I was 47) my intuition was what got me past the optician and GP saying ‘you have to expect a lot of floaters with a -9 prescription’ when I had something in my visual field that I just *knew* was not a floater – I called it a cloud, and altho it was a small patch, I couldn’t see through it. Having had a retinal tear a year before, I was very watchful for any changes in my visual field – the fact that this one was not ‘as described’ in the standard list of symptoms eg shutters coming down, lights flashing or increased floaters didn’t faze me – altho it seemed to ‘blindside’ (haha) the optician and GP.

Anyway, after I insisted my GP referred me (by letter, which took a week), the minute I got to the proper retinal specialists, they had me stay in hospital the same day (23 Dec) and operated on my right eye for a retinal detachment, thus saving my sight. (So many people lose theirs because they ignore the symptoms – or, in my opinion, have GPs who don’t take them seriously.) I had the gas bubble and 6 weeks off work, 4 of which lying on my left side only. This was Xmas 2013. I hadn’t done any yoga etc – just am a high risk due to short sight stretching and thinning my retinas

I have since taken up yoga and pilates. Our yoga teacher always says ‘if you have high blood pressure, don’t do this one’ – but I have low blood pressure. Last week, she suddenly added retinal detachments to the list of don’ts – when we were in the middle of a 4 min shoulder stand. I crashed to the floor and sat bolt upright, wondering why she had never mentioned retinal detachments as a contraindication before – if she had, I would never have done shoulder stands or plough. As she didn’t know much/anything when questioned, I resorted to Google and thankfully found this forum and all your comments.

My intuition (as I lack any scientific proof or medical knowledge) tells me that I should not do poses that increase pressure in my eyes – so I will not stop yoga but will be sitting out or adapting the ones you’ve mentioned here eg downward dog as well as shoulder stand. The thought of doing a headstand (not yet taught in our intermediate class) makes me shudder anyway, so I wouldn’t be tempted by that.

Reading your comments makes me remember with horror how many hours as a child I hung upside down from my climbing frame, and headbanged as a teenager – all with pretty short sight then too!

In the absence of medical interest or proof, common sense or intuition must inform us all. If it is in fact *fear* rather than intuition, I don’t care – if it saves my sight. If it doesn’t feel right, don’t do it.

Namaste to you all, and thanks for sharing your wisdom and fears!


Deirdra December 28, 2015 at 6:22 pm

For some reason this didn’t alert me…anyway I tell every teacher I meet to be aware of this, who knows maybe I told her cause I never shut up about it! I post it on forums and bring it up for discussion on trainings.
I don’t think it’s just intuition. I’m glad like me your sight was saved, look at how many people it’s happened to…there has to be a link…despite what some surgeons say.


michelle August 11, 2015 at 6:11 pm

Please help me with information on homeopathic eye pressure drops on my 2nd surgery detachment..around middle of June gentlemen had spoke of his own ingredients for natural drops..thank you if anyone can help. Michelle


lIndsay December 28, 2015 at 4:54 pm

Recently suffered a retinal tear and had laser surgery about a week ago. The retinal specialist told me I could resume light activities after about a week but no upside down positions. He said they were especially high risk. My first thought was forward fold but he was more concerned with head stands, and inversion tables. But as I read this I see that there are several degrees of inversion including downward dog. Wondering if I would be better to put my membership on hold while I modify my practice. It is difficult to find a class without DD. I am near sighted and have a family history of glaucoma so will need to be careful. I am very grateful that this was caught early enough. Went to the ER and they suspected retinal tear. They sent me to an ophthalmologist who said it was just floaters and see my eye doctor in 6 weeks. When a friend insisted that did not sound right I booked an apt to see my eye doctor 4 days later. When he said it was a tear and I needed to see his colleague right away I nearly flipped. I had laser treatment 30 minutes later. I had done a yoga class in the 3 days after the visit to the opthamologist and after the class noticed an increase in my symptoms. I am very fortunate for my friend’s concern and for our health care system. Will still do yoga but with modifications.


Deirdra December 28, 2015 at 6:20 pm

So glad your friend alerted you, I always go to eye hospital if ANY symptoms just not worth it. Also glad your surgeon is aware of the inversion problem because too many completely dismiss it when I have brought it up…you only need read this what has turned into a forum from a blog post to see there are many people who have experienced this…I am so careful with students now as do many can have high myopia and be wearing contacts.
Unfortunately I can’t advise on suitable recovery or postures …I resumed downward dog, I won’t do headstand, I demonstrate shoulder stand with a very short hold. But it’s different for everyone and I just live on hope that my repair will hold out and I’m not silly.


Lawrence January 18, 2016 at 12:07 pm

I have just come across this blog and found the conversation very interesting. Thanks for a great read and info. I am an Iyengar Yoga teacher and also a Natural Eyesight Improvement teacher. One thing that has not come to light in this discussion, is that functional eye problems (Astigmatism, Long and short sight, Strabismus, presbyopia) are caused by stress of the visual system. When this stress has been there for a long time, such is with high Myopia, then there is a climate for more serious conditions to develop. Conditions such as cataract, glaucoma, detached retina are rare in people who do not have any functional eyesight problem. The key to reducing and eventually getting rid of the functional eyesight problem is returning to good vision habits. The key word in Natural Eyesight Improvement is RELAXATION. One’s yoga practice can be a great help in this relaxation process;, I am sure many people experience improved eyesight after a good practice. However, as one can see by the number of yogi’s with eyesight problems, yoga alone is not enough. One has to break the bad habits, and return to good natural, relaxed vision habits to really improve. When the improvement happens, and the stress reduces, then most likely the risk to the retina will fall away. By the way, as part of my Iyengar teacher training here in South africa, from the beginning we were told to enquire about medical problems including the eye and esp glaucoma, with inversions contra indicated!


Deirdra January 19, 2016 at 1:31 am

Thank you for your input! Very interesting and agreed there is usually but not always predisposition which can also be genetic. Very high myopia is caused by the shape of the eyeball which in turn causes intraocular stresses. The shape can be affected through any number of things including often being born that way.
Interesting work!


Bryn November 23, 2016 at 11:31 pm

I had a hole in my retina repaired three weeks ago and I was told last week that I could return to yoga this week. I still have a small visible gas bubble at the bottom of my visual field. Instinct tells me this cannot be a good idea. I am so glad to have found this website and as a result of reading the comments, I will definitely refrain from inversions for now and possibly forever. I have been doing yoga for many years and will really miss going to classes but the possibility of losing vision is scarier than the loss of yoga. I KNOW I could practice without inversions at home but it’s the group practice that I will really miss. I think my surgeon did an excellent job with the hole but in terms of advice about aftercare, there really isn’t much.


Deirdra November 24, 2016 at 11:03 pm

Hi Bryn

I hope you can find the yoga you feel comfortable with, many forms of yin yoga would be fine. 😊
I still practise but with limitations.
Best of luck!


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