Trataka is a meditation technique that uses the sense of sight to still the mind…
Although you can practice Trataka by looking at a dot on the wall, the tip of your nose, or a star in the sky, it is traditionally—and most effectively, in our opinion—achieved by gazing at a candle flame.
Trataka means “gaze” in Sanskrit and while the practice may appear passive, it’s alchemical, enhancing one’s ability to dissolve distractions and cultivate clarity over time. The Hatha Yoga Pradipika defines the ritual as “looking intently with an unwavering gaze at a small point until tears are shed.”
In the subtle body, the eyes are the windows to our souls, and in the physical body, they’re the most complex of all the organs. Nearly half the brain is dedicated to vision, evidence for the connection between focusing your gaze and quieting your mind.
Trataka aligns with the definition of concentration offered in The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, a text that’s widely regarded as the yogic bible. The Sutras say that in order to achieve inner peace we must first master meditation, which can be learned by focusing on a single object with uninterrupted attention. Unfortunately, staring at screens doesn’t count. In fact, it can have the opposite effect, as our growing addiction to technology is directly correlated to increasing stress levels and decreasing attention spans. Trataka counteracts this, working to lower anxiety and improve memory and concentration. And, like any new technique, it gets easier with time.
HOW TO PRACTICE TRATAKA?
Light a candle and place it on a small table so that the flame is exactly at eye level when sitting. Trim the wick and protect the flame from draughts so that it remains steady. Sit in any comfortable meditation asana with the head and spine erect.
Adjust the position so that the candle is an arm’s length away from the body. Close the eyes and relax the whole body, especially the eyes. Be aware of body steadiness for a few minutes. Keep the body absolutely still throughout the practice. Open the eyes and gaze steadily at the flame. Try not to blink or move the eyeballs in any way. Do not strain as this will cause tension and the eyes will flicker. The awareness should be so completely centred on the flame that body awareness is lost. If the mind begins to wander, gently bring it back to the practice. After a minute or two, when the eyes become tired or begin to water, close them gently.
Gaze at the after-image of the flame in the space in front of the closed eyes. If the image moves up or down, or from side to side, observe it and try to stabilize it. When the image of the flame begins to fade, try to bring it back. When the image can no longer be retained, gently open the eyes and gaze at the flame once more. Repeat the procedure for external gazing. Close the eyes once more and gaze at the inner image. Continue in this way 3 or 4 times. After completing the final round, practise the technique of palming 2 or 3 times, before opening the eyes. This completes the practice. Time of practice: Trataka may be perfo1med at any time, but the best time is at dawn or dusk when the stomach is empty.
Duration: who is Beginners in yoga should gaze for 1 or 2 minutes only, and then close the eyes. For general purposes 5 to 10 minutes is sufficient. For spiritual purposes, trataka may be performed for extended periods of time under the guidance of a competent teacher. Those who suffer from insomnia and mental tension should perform this practice for 10 to 15 minutes before sleeping at night.
Sequence: Trataka should be performed after asanas, pranayamas, mudras and bandhas to steady the body and mind. in yoga teacher training in india they also teach these trataka,
Precautions: In the case of eye ailments, such as eyestrain, astigmatism and even the early symptoms of cataract, see the alternative practices on the following page. People with myopia (short-sightedness) severe enough to warrant glasses should retain their glasses while practising trataka on a flame.
Contra-indications: People suffering from glaucoma should not practise trataka. Epileptics should not practise trataka on a candle flame (see the alternative practice on the following page). Avoid practising trataka on the sun, as the delicate membranes of the eyes may be damaged.
Benefits: This practice makes the eyes clear and bright. It balances the nervous system, relieving nervous tension. It improves the memory and helps to develop good concentration and strong willpower. It activates ajna chakra and is an excellent preparation for meditation.