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 way3or 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:Beginners should gaze for 1 or 2 minutes only, and then close the eyes. For general purposes 5 to 1 0 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 band has to steady the body and mind.
Precautions: In the case of eye ailments, such as eyestrain, astigmatism and even the early syn1ptoms 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 practicing 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.
Practice note: When trataka is practised on a steady flame, there should be no draught in the vicinity. The practitioner should always avoid undue strain. The ability to keep the eyes open without blinking should be developed gradually with consistent practice.
Trataka is an excellent method for clearing accumulated complexes, problems and suppressed thoughts from the mind, enabling the practitioner to witness what is surfacing.
It is also possible, however, for these problems to manifest too rapidly, which may be mentally disturbing. If this occurs, stop the practice and seek advice from a competent teacher.
Trataka focuses the mind and curbs oscillating tendencies, making it one-pointed and awakening inner vision. All the attention and power of the mind is channelled into one continuous stream. Once this has been achieved, the latent potential within the mind is able to arise spontaneously.
Alternative practices: In the case of eye ailments, such as eyestrain, astigmatism and even the early symptoms of cataract, a black dot should be used, instead of gazing at a candle flame. Practise in daylight or with steady background lighting.
Epileptics should not practise trataka on a candle flame, but should choose a black dot or some other completely steady object to gaze at, with steady background light.
Note:The word trataka means ‘to look’ or ‘to gaze’ . Trataka is the last of the Shatkarma. It acts as a stepping-stone between physically oriented practices and mental practices which lead to higher states of awareness. It forms a bridge between hatha yoga and raja yoga. Traditionally, it is a part of hatha yoga, but it may also be considered a part of raja yoga.
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