What is trataka?
Trataka is one of the Shat Kriyas (Six Yogic Cleansing Processes).
It is the practice of focusing on a fixed gazing point. It involves looking at an object, usually a flame, small dot, the moon, rising setting sun, or yantra (specific geometric diagram) without blinking. Focusing on these external objects helps to train the mind to be able to focus on internal points, used as internal trataka as well as in other concentration (meditation) practices.
How does it work?
When you think, your eyes move rapidly. By stopping this movement trataka forces us to slow down or pause the thought processes, allowing the mind to become calm. This is a type of Pratyahara (see 8 limbs of yoga) technique as you are directing all of your energy into the sense of seeing, and withdrawing the other senses.
Regular practice of Trataka can help to focus the mind in other areas of life too, by training yourself to concentrate, you can become more efficient.
You might be wondering how it is a ‘cleansing process’, well, by resisting the temptation to blink, and allowing the tears to flow freely, we clean not only the surface of our eyes (which could be done with eye baths) but our whole visual system. It also trains the intellect to be able to focus on (and complete) one thought, which helps to break the unhelpful repetitive thought loops in the head and prevents them from building up as mental toxins.
How to practice trataka?
You will need
- Small table or stool
- Something to sit on
- A dark, quiet room
(If it is difficult for you to sit comfortably on the floor sit on a chair with your spine straight and have the candle on a higher surface)
- Place the candle on a surface in front of you so that the flame is just below eye level (too high or too low can cause strain in the neck so adjust the height of the candle using whatever is available).
- Light the candle and darken the room, turn off any fans and close the windows so that the flame remains stable.
- Sit in any comfortable position with your spine straight 1-2ft (30-60cm) away from your candle. Postures that can be used include (sukhasana, vajrasana, padmasana, siddha yoni asana)
- Look directly at the center of the flame without blinking. After some time the eyes will start watering, but try to keep them open for as long as possible.
- When you can’t keep your eyes open any longer, close them and focus on your third eye (eyebrow center). You will still be able to see the flame at the third eye.
- Hold onto this image of the flame for as long as possible, (even though it might be moving and trying to come out of your vision).
- Once the image of the flame is completely gone then open the eyes and repeat the process two more times.
- When you have finished rub your palms together to create heat, and place the warm palms over the eyes for relaxation.
- Strengthens eye muscles
- Can help to alleviate certain eye disorders
- Relieves insomnia
- Helpful in the treatment of depression
- Improves concentration and memory
- Promotes emotional stability
People suffering from psychic problems such as schizophrenia or hallucinations may want to avoid this and other strong third eye meditations. If they wish to do this practice they should seek the guidance of a trusted and knowledgeable teacher.