According to the Hatha Yoga Padipika, which is an old text that describes the practices of hatha yoga, trataka is, “looking intently with an unwavering gaze at a small point until the eyes begin to tear.” Trataka is a kriya or cleansing practice. I find it especially useful for meditation as well.
I love the practice of fire gazing because no matter how new you may be to dharana or concentration, the first stage of meditation, most can focus on fire. I joke in class that it’s the oldest form of meditation once fire was discovered. I don’t know anyone who has not been mesmerized by flames- whether it be a campfire, candle or one of the amazing fireplaces my step-father, a stone mason, built. Flames are not the only fixed point one can gaze upon, yet it is most commonly used and spoken of.
Trataka is known for helping eyesight, concentration, it creates a calm space and mind, relieves stress, and helps clear the mind among other things.
HOW TO DO IT:
I teach trataka a bit differently than is traditional. I invite students to explore looking at the flame and then closing their eyes and trying to hold the picture of the flame behind their eyelids or at the Third Eye between the brows.
- Find a comfortable seat.
- Early morning is best, yet you can practice any time.
- I suggest choosing the same time each day.
- Place your candle at eye level so you can sit upright and look straight ahead.
- Set a timer if you are committed to a certain amount of time.
- Focus on your breath and settle into your seat.
- Stare at the flame without straining your eyes.
- If your eyes get tired, close them.
- You can close the eyes at any point and try to picture the flame behind your eyelids or between the brows at the Third Eye.
- You may also continue to look at the flame without closing your eyes.
- Traditionally you would look at the flame until your eyes tear.
- I like to sit with a notebook so that I can write about my experience or any thoughts that enter my mind.
- I suggest starting with 5 minutes at a time and working your way up from there.
I would love to hear about your experiences. Please comment below.