Do you remember all the excitement of your childhood when candles were used? Blowing them off during your birthday or trying to let your finger move through the flame.
Or maybe you gazed (back) at the flame?
In Hatha yoga there is a practice for fixed gazing at an object that stimulates peace and balance, which is called Trataka.
This object can be a black dot on the wall or the wick of a flame.
As you start practicing Tratake, don’t get discouraged when your eyes start tearing immediately: Trataka requires patience, time and practice.
Benefits of Trataka
There are quite some benefits to a regular practice of Trataka.
It develops concentration, it stimulates a better memory and the power of visualisation. Your eye muscles get reinforced, your view improves and you release a lot of energy.
Trataka can also be considered as a practice of Shatkarma: a purification of the mind to stimulate Ajna Chakra. You are stimulating a better quality of your vision, the concept of the vision within.
The practice of Tratak can let supressed thoughts or accumulated problems emerge and therefore it is always important to observe those thoughts in a neutral observation (Drashta).
How to practice Trataka?
In order to get to a neutral observation, we start in a meditation posture to practice Kaya Sthairyam on arm distance of the chosen object and at eye level.
As you close your eyes, you bring your awareness into your whole body and observe everything that is happening inside of your body. You become aware of tensions, thoughts, emotions and your breath. Your awareness travels through your body, connecting to each body part to release tension. It is through repetition that Kaya Sthairyham becomes easier. Ideally you practice it with Ujjayi breath.
You take a few deep breaths in your belly followed by a few cycles of the full yoga breath.
· After the Kaya Sthairyham, you open your eyes and start gazing at the object. When you have a flame, you focus on the wick of the flame. Make sure that there is no draft so that the flame remains still.
· It is important to keep your eyes wide open and released and you keep them focused without moving or blinking.
· If you notice that your mind starts wandering off, you bring it gently back to your object of concentration.
· When your eyes start tearing or they really feel uncomfortable, blink first to see if it goes away. If not, then that is the moment to close your eyes.
· The more often you practice, the longer you can keep your eyes open and fixed.
· When you close your eyes, you are going to try to keep the flame as long as possible at the centre of your forehead, Chidakasha. As the image has the tendency to move into different directions, you try to keep it at the centre or bring it back to the centre.
· All the time you remain in Drashta.
· When the image has completely disappeared, you keep on gazing at the black space of Chidakasha. Regard that in complete neutral observation, regardless of the experiences.
· Repeat this a few times, building it up slowly.
· When you have finished you can practice the palming of the hands. You bring your hands together and rub them warm. Then you place your warm hands in front of (not on top of) your eyes. You can practice it a few times. When the warmth has disappeared, you open your eyes slowly in the space of your hands and you bring your hands gently back onto your knees.
· Hari Om Tat Sat
My recommendation is to start including this practice on a daily basis, which can be at the dawn of the day or after sunset. The more you include Trataka into your day, the more a natural need for it develops. Let this development bring you on your path of creating a better vision inwards.
Note: neither children should practice Tratak nor should people with glaucoma or eye strain. Never practice Trataka on the sun.