11 : Trataka
Trāṭaka ( त्राटक ) is the practice of staring at an external object. This fixed gazing is a method of meditation which involves concentrating on a single point such as a small object, black dot or candle flame. It is used as a way of developing concentration, strengthening the eyes, and stimulating the ajna chakra.
The practice is by staring at a candle flame. The practice is the same up until the eyes begin to water, after which the eyes are closed, and the yogi tries to concentrate on the after image, and hold it for as long as possible. At first, it will be a real after-image, but later, it will exist only in the mind’s eye, and the exercise in concentration comes from trying to maintain it there for a long period of time.
While practicing trataka, i noticed that i am able to maintain the image of the flame for a substantial amount of time. Staring at the flames causes my eyes much discomfort due to astigmatism. However after the practice, it surprises me that my vision is slightly clearer and my mind is very fresh and calm for as long as i can remember.
Benefits of Trataka
Shloka 2.32 of the Hatha Yoga Pradipika states “Trataka eradicates all eye diseases, fatigue and sloth and closes the doorway to these problems”. Some of the benefits associated with Trataka are:
- Improves eyesight and vision.
- Improves concentration, intelligence and memory.
- Excellent method as preparation for mantra meditation.
- Enhances self-confidence, patience and willpower.
- Develops greater work efficiency and productivity.
- Calms the mind and provides inner peace and silence.
- Brings greater clarity in mind and improves decision-making ability.
- Helps to overcome mental, behavioral and emotional ailments.
- Provides stress relief and deep relaxation.
- Deepens the sleep and cures sleep related disorders such as headache, insomnia, nightmares, etc.
- According to Gherand Samhita (shloka 5.54), Trataka promotes clairvoyance or perception of subtle manifestations.
Tips for Trataka Concentration
- Trataka is best practiced on an empty stomach during early-morning hours or late evening hours just before going to bed. If you practice it during the daytime, make sure that the room is dark so that focusing on the flame is easier.
- Try getting a decent sized flame by adjusting the size of the wick. It will help in achieving a better after-image of the flame and it will be easier to visualize it with improved concentration.
- Do not strain your eyes while gazing on the flame. The eyes adjust naturally in due course of time and it becomes easier to concentrate and gaze on the flame for longer periods of time.
- As I mentioned earlier, because Trataka develops deep focus and concentration, it is used as a very effective pre-meditation stage. At the end of the Trataka routine, you may continue with your own mantra meditation.