Sometimes it’s the little things that make you happy. Take for example the eye pillow. I have no problem getting into a very comfortable Savasana (Corpse Pose, where you lie down at the end of a yoga class) without any bells or whistles. I don’t need any pan flute music or even extra blankets to relax. But give me a lavender-scented eye pillow and I don’t know myself. I feel like I’m away on some peaceful silent retreat on a sunny island somewhere. That’s all it takes. Just a soft piece of cotton stuffed with some flax seeds and dried lavender. Or better yet, a teacher who sneaks up on you and places a drop or two of lavender on your pillow as you relax. Bliss.
What is an eye pillow, you ask? For those of you who have not yet had the pleasure, an eye pillow is made of cotton muslin stuffed with fresh flax seeds. Dried herbs of choice can be added to this stuffing of flax seeds, lavender being the most common. Lavender is supposed to have a calming effect (unless, of course, it reminds you of a nasty old aunt). I suppose you could use something like rosemary if the intent of the eye pillow was to invoke clarity, though I am in no way an aromatherapist. In my opinion, having a removable cover that can be washed (also made of cotton muslin) is optimal, especially if different people are using the same pillows. In fact, my students insisted on buying their own because I think they were slightly grossed out at the thought of using an eye pillow that someone else had used (they mentioned the word ‘sty’, which always horrifies me and convinced me that they were right).
How does the eye pillow work? I read a lot of information about yoga, meditation, the body and how it works. I am in no way an expert and one of my pet peeves is reading something that seems like it is just regurgitated and not necessarily based on any real experience. This happens a lot in yoga (‘Tuck your tailbone?’ Really?). So please take it with a grain of salt when I say that the bit of pressure that the eye pillow puts on the area around the eyes is something akin to acupressure. I have read that mechanical stimulation of certain cells of the body makes them work more effectively (this is EXTREMELY reductionist, but people’s eyes glaze over when I start going into detail about the stuff I am reading). It’s why massage can be so effective or tai chi or therapy ball rolling, etc, etc.
Basically, if you try it and you feel better, more relaxed, less tense, then it’s working. And that should be your proof – not me telling you or an article you read. A good eye pillow will cost you a tenner so you can try it out yourself. Do this with all your holistic practices if you can. Don’t take someone else’s word for it (be your own guru, as it were…).
Through a chance reading of a post on one of the Irish yoga teacher groups on FaceBook, I came across a a really nice woman in Connemara who makes eye pillows. Her name is Lorraine O Shea and she can be found on FaceBook, if you are interested in an hand made eye pillow lovingly made in Ireland. Lorraine was kind enough to bring me a few samples which we tried out in class. My students gave me feedback about the size, amount of stuffing (weight) and smell or no smell (only one person hated the lavender). It was a lovely organic process, and Lorraine was so accommodating and happy for the feedback. I have to admit I was a bit like Goldilocks — didn’t want the pillow too stuffed, didn’t want it too wide, needed it to be longer. But Lorraine took all of the requests in her stride!
So it was with great joy that I finally placed my order for 30 eye pillows. Most of my students ordered one and I ordered a few extras because I knew more would want them when they saw them. Plus I wanted a few to give as presents — they make excellent presents, I think.
So my very own anecdotal evidence indicates that eye pillows are very effective in helping students relax. The first class when most of the students used their new eye pillows for the first time produced more snoring than I have ever heard in any class in Savasana — that lovely, light, half snore sound of the very restful, peaceful student. They, being newish students, were of course mortified by the snoring. But I explained that this is normal and that I was delighted for them (and told them to be careful driving home!).
As I indicated earlier, you don’t need anything for Savasana and maybe bringing more stuff into your life isn’t your thing. But these eye pillows add a little extra something to your relaxation — even if it’s just reminding yourself that you deserve a little extra comfort sometime. And if you’re handy with the old sewing machine, you might even make one yourself!