I am a serious practitioner of Qigong and a glaucoma patient. Should I use a tonometer?
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16 months ago
david 3.9k
@david_fe

I am a serious practitioner of Qigong, and for the past 4 months I have kicked it up a notch with a special Qi coach. It is quite intense and many times I feel a great deal of heat coursing through my body during practice.

I am also a glaucoma patient and I have higher IOP.

The subject of a tonometer came up with my Qigong coach and he gave an interesting response. He discouraged me from using a tonometer because he felt that it was a way of trying to “guarantee” that the qigong work that I was doing would pay off. If my pressure did not go down or just stayed the same, he feared the inclination would be to stop the practice.

I would like to hear other opinions. Should I avoid using a tonometer as my Qigong coach suggested?

meditation tonometer qigong • 588 views
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16 months ago
david 3.9k
@david_fe

I am not a fan of remaining "in the dark" when it comes to energy & intraocular pressure. I have seen too many times when someone's spiritual practice and the intense energy/heat coursing through their body was associated with elevated intraocular pressure. I recommend being informed. We can each think like a scientist and look at our own IOP data. I think anyone with glaucoma who is sufficiently far along in their practice to have "quite intense" experiences as you put it, really needs to know what their intraocular pressure is during those experiences.

I disagree with your Qigong coach. That response that shows a lack of awareness of the potential dangers involved in intense energy practices for a glaucoma patient.

At your level of practice ("I am a serious practitioner of Qigong; I have kicked it up a notch"), this has less to do with lowering your IOP (which, certainly could be the outcome if you use the tonometer for "biofeedback"), and much more to do with avoiding the potential adverse consequences of elevated intraocular pressure that can sometimes accompany intense experiences of energy in spiritual practices.

Probably the most dramatic intraocular pressure increase I have ever seen -- from 20 to 40 mmHg in only about 30 minutes -- was in a FitEyes member practicing her own style of meditation that she said was very enjoyable and that produced a strong flow of energy.

One difference in her case was that the energy flow was upward and she felt a lot of it in the region of her head. In my experience that is even more likely to cause an increase in intraocular pressure. In your case, you said you "feel heat coursing through my body during practice". On the surface, that sounds like the type of experience that may not result in a dramatic increase in intraocular pressure. However, I have personally experienced an increase in intraocular pressure from practices I would not have expected to cause it. Others have reported this to me as well. Therefore, for a glaucoma patient (particularly one whose IOP tends to run a bit too high) and who is having intense practices, I have to strongly recommend a using a tonometer to check your IOP as close in time to those intense practices as possible.

For those of you who are interested in meditation or any energy practices but do not have access to a tonometer, I would recommend that you adopt a practice that has been widely and safely used by glaucoma patients for some time.

The FitEyes community has been discussing developing our own meditation course, by glaucoma patients and for glaucoma patients. This course, if we create it, will be based on over a decade of experience by FitEyes members with tonometers.

Synergy

Yes, we do need to be wise about how we incorporate the use of a tonometer into our spiritual practices. When this is done well, there is a great synergy between self-tonometry, self-awareness and our spiritual practice. This approach is something I feel we get right in the FitEyes community.

I am aware of the many things that can go wrong with other approaches to "tracking" or "quantified self" or even biofeedback. In any spiritual practice, the focus of your attention is important. While it is possible to let a tonometer (or any biofeedback device) distract you from your practice, is is also just as easy to incorporate a tonometer into your practice in a way that adds value and does not distract you.

The same can be said about looking for a "payoff" for your spiritual practice. The ideal may be to practice with no expectations. But in truth, many people come to a spiritual practice seeking help with something -- anxiety, or elevated blood pressure, for example. This is not wrong. We all initially come to our practice in the way we need to.

Over time we often find more and more internal motivation for our spiritual practice. These internal motivations could range from the feeling of inner peace, the growth of equanimity, the desire to add positivity to the field of consciousness, or the desire to be more free (to name just some examples). It often takes time for these types of motivations to become primary. Prior to that, it is not uncommon for our primary motivation to be some "payoff". I propose that's not wrong at that stage. It's a stage in our natural growth on our spiritual path.

To say that a person with a medical condition should remain uninformed or under-informed about the primary risk factor for that medical condition, simply because it may relate to seeking some payoff is wrong on multiple levels. To add to what I said above, if you are at the stage of your practice where you are seeking a payoff (such as lower IOP), that's not wrong. If you are beyond that stage, then a tonometer is not going to cause you to lose touch with the powerful internal motivations I named above, such as inner peace, equanimity, and many more.

Some spiritual teachers de-emphasize payoffs such as improved health. I understand the reasons for this. A teacher of mine recently said to me:

I'm moving away more and more from the technology end of training with biofeedback and neurofeedback. I'm called more and more to teach people who are interested in the state of meditation, rather than using a technique or method for training the mind/brain/body in the service of ego driven needs/wants.

The state of meditation is unbroken, eternal. Coming to rest in the Divine's embrace and knowing it every moment of every day in every situation... this is the goal of sadhana.

I respect that perspective. But I have a different perspective. While I am against spiritual materialism, I am strongly supportive of practices that support our physical health, as well as our emotional health, mental health.

Elevating only our spiritual health or the purity of our spiritual motivations (i.e., nothing done in the service of our ego-driven wants and needs) above all other concerns is not a practical approach.

Just as we can argue against ignoring one's emotional health, mental health or spiritual health in the exclusive pursuit of some payoff such as physical health (or any ego-driven desire), we can equally argue that that all aspects of health deserve proper attention. There is nothing wrong with seeking a "payoff" in terms of improved physical health from a spiritual practice. Even if better physical health (or the improvement in a medical condition) is ego-driven, the very pursuit of that ego-driven goal via a proper spiritual practice will, over time, help free us of the ego and dissolve the ego.

Meditation Research Project

A couple years after getting a tonometer, I embarked upon a two-year research project wherein I tested many different types of meditation with a number of ideal test subjects. My test subjects included glaucoma patients and highly experienced meditators (as well as inexperienced individuals). Qigong practitioners where among the subjects too. I learned that various meditation techniques are so different from each other that to lump them all under the umbrella term "meditation" can be highly misleading. I saw changes in brain waves and heart rhythms, for example, that were polar opposites from one meditation technique to the next. Not only were these techniques often different, they were sometimes complete opposites!

I have now spent the last dozen or so years practicing the meditation technique that my research showed to be the best overall and I realize it is one of, if not the single most important health habit I can practice. it does help lower my IOP. I treat my meditation practice as non-negotiable and I don't skip it. The time I invest is repaid in multiples with improved productivity, state of mind, physical health and much more.

And, as recent research shows[1], “yoga/meditation” practice was associated with a trend toward decreased intraocular pressure while anxiety was associated with "a gradual elevation of the IOP-related profile from the start of the stressful stimulus."

The FitEyes community has accumulated 15+ years of experience around the relationship between stress, anxiety and intraocular pressure. Most of us feel the same way I do about the value of meditation. (I am including practices like Qigong under this umbrella term). These practices offer a lot of value for anyone living with glaucoma. But if you experience sensations of energy or heat during your practice, you need to be able to monitor your intraocular pressure during those experiences. I'm not suggesting those experience are to be avoided by glaucoma patients. But I am suggesting you may, as I did, have to change your spiritual practice in some way, based on the feedback from your tonometer. Staying in the dark about your IOP during intense spiritual practices is not wise.

[1]Gillmann K, Weinreb RN, Mansouri K. The effect of daily life activities on intraocular pressure related variations in open-angle glaucoma. Sci Rep. 2021 Mar 23;11(1):6598.

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16 months ago
silentsneg • 90
@silentsneg

I'm aware that it's not all about my IOP. I don't think yoga does much to lower my IOP, but even if it elevates it a little, I'll keep on doing it because it helps my mind and my body. Will I measure my IOP before and after yoga? I will, I'm curious. Will I completely stop doing yoga if my IOP goes up a notch? No.

Now, if my IOP really spikes, and goes up to 40, I will reevaluate things. I don't think measuring is about expectations and stopping every activity that doesn't meet your IOP expectations. It is about the desire to know what's going on and use that knowledge, hopefully, for your well being.

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Thanks for sharing your perspective. That sounds like a healthy and reasonable approach. I do agree that it is wise to consider a bigger picture.

I also do yoga and I find it so beneficial overall that I even include a moderate amount of yoga poses that I know increase my IOP. Knowing exactly how much they affect my IOP allows me to make an informed decision. I can consider the amount of risk and the reward. There are definitely some yoga poses that give so many benefits that the reward is worth a few minutes of slightly elevated IOP -- to me. My IOP is well-managed, so the risk is very low.

With a tonometer, each person is empowered to make that risk-reward decision for themselves (and, of course, consult with their health care professionals for any needed guidance).

In my opinion, owning a tonometer empowers us to engage in more activities like yoga. Rather than being scared away by an over-cautious, overly-broad generalization about what is good for us or bad for us, we can quantify those things and make informed, empowered decisions. A tonometer lets us do more, discover more, and worry less.

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I TOTALLY agree with what you are saying here! I was going to recommend the same thing! I do think it would be great for you to be able to measure the effects of things like before/after yoga or Qigong! This kind of information would benefit everyone in the group, especially for those of us who have not yet been able to obtain a tonometer (for whatever reason...for me it's residing in Brasil!). Your insight would be SOOO helpful and enlightening. I would LOVE to see a sort of summary of those of you who have tonometers and do yoga and have explored these measurements. These summations of behaviors and measurements that I have seen here and there on fiteyes have REALLY helped me make some general behavioral decisions.

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