Hatha Yoga: The Yoga of the Physical Body.
Trataka; Concentrated Gazing.
Trataka; Concentrated Gazing.
This practice is traditionally considered to be a part of hatha yoga. Because its technique is more like a mudra it can also be considered as part of raja yoga. This powerful technique can be defined as fixed gazing at one point (the word trataka means "to look, or to gaze"). If practised regularly it develops the power of concentration to an almost unlimited degree. From this comes the awakening of latent faculties that are in all of us. Although there are numerous different techniques, the easiest and most common is the following.
Sit in a comfortable position, preferably a meditative asana, in a dark room. Place a lighted candle level with the eyes, at a distance of 1 to 2 feet from the face. Straighten the spine, relax the body and close the eyes. Be aware of the physical body only.
Let the body become still, like a statue. Once you are comfortable try not to move the body in any way or for any reason throughout the whole practice. When you are prepared, open the eyes and gaze intently at the brightest spot of the flame just above the end of the wick or the steady red tip of the wick. With practice you should be able to gaze for a few minutes at the flame without move- ment of the eyeballs or blinking. Continue to gaze at the flame with total concentration. The whole of your consciousness must become centered in the eyes to the extent that awareness of the rest of the body is lost.
The gaze should be absolutely fixed on one point As soon as the eyes become tired (perhaps after a few minutes) or if they begin to water, close them and relax. Do not move the body, but be aware of the after-image of the flame in front of the closed eyes. Everyone has looked into the sun or a bright light and seen, on closing the eyes for a few minutes, the clear impression of that light on the retina of the eye.
Likewise, the after-image of the candle flame will be clearly visible. You should practise trataka on this image, holding it directly in front or a little above the eyebrow center. As soon as it begins to fade, open the eyes again and continue to concentrate on the external candle flame.
Trataka can be practised on a small dot, the full moon, a shadow, a crystal ball, the nosetip, water, darkness, the void, (see bhoochari mudra), a shiva linga, a shining object that is not excessively bright and so many other things. Those who have a personal deity or guru can practise trataka on photographs of their face, while trying to feel their spiritual presence and grace. Trataka can also be practised on the rising sun, one's own image in a mirror or the eyes of another per- son. These should, however, be done under the guidance of a guru, as there are certain risks involved.
There are two divisions of trataka, bahiranga (outer) and antaranga (inner). The methods briefly mentioned so far are all part of outer trataka. Inner trataka is internal visualization, perhaps of a chakra or your personal deity. The eyes are generally kept closed. If they are open, the concentration should be directed inward to such an extent that no external object is perceived.
For general purposes 15 to 20 minutes is sufficient. For spiritual purposes, or to rectify eye defects, the duration should be extended for any length of time. Sufferers of insomnia and mental tension should do this technique for 15 minutes before sleeping at night.
Time and sequence
The best time for trataka is between 4 and 6 a.m. after asanas and pranayama. It can also be practised at virtually any time. The stomach should be empty so that concentration is more intense.
There is no danger in the simple form of trataka outlined here (on the candle flame), but one should avoid undue strain in the beginning. The ability to keep the eyes open without blinking will be developed gradually with practice.
Physically, trataka corrects weakness and certain defects of the eyes, such as short-sightedness. Mentally, it increases nervous stability, removes insomnia and relaxes even the most troubled mind. Irataka should be done as a sadhana practice. It develops concentration. The eyes are the doorway to the mind. When the eyes arc fixed and unmoving, the mind becomes the same. The thinking process automaticailly ceases as concentration increases. Trataka is one of the most powerful methods of controlling the tempestuous mind and its thought waves.
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