Trataka - Central Fixation of Sight
Eyes, one of the 5 senses, via which the Mind experiences the outer, material reality, presents the graphic and visual details of this outer reality to the Mind. All the five senses, gateways to the outer world, present the same reality from their individual perspectives; nose - smell, skin- touch, tongue - taste, ears - sound and eyes - sight. The Mind constructs the final reality by cogently overlapping this five-pronged information about the same entity, the outer reality.
Sight or the impressions from the eyes present the proportionally integrated elements of the outer reality in space and color. Technically the real eye is the bundle of nerve cells known as Optic nerve situated between the retina and the brain where the actual image is constructed using the signals received by the externally visible oval shaped eyeballs. Eyes are the most important sense organ for humans in particular as 80 % of the information collected from their environment which is critical to their survival is received through the eyes.
Thus proper care and maintaining the hygiene of the eyes becomes imperative for every seeker of a healthy lifespan. Yoga proposes a number of techniques which describe ways of keeping the eyes healthy for as long as one lives. Practice the below-described techniques or eye exercises, whatever moniker we may give them, consistently for a few months for availing the ensuing advantages from the same.
What is the Meaning of Trataka:
Trataka means the central fixation of the sight, it can also be put as gazing or focussing the sight on any object. The mind has an important role in what we see, the eyes only follow the thoughts, thus for doing Trataka, the Mind must be trained to focus for longer intervals of time in order to keep the gaze focused on an object.
Yoga enumerates a list of items which can be used for doing Trataka or fixing one's gaze on any one of them: candle flame, dot, Moon, Sun, greenery, Symbol of OM, circle, the tip of the nose etc. There are about 36 objects which can be used for performing Tratak. The safest ones are Sun, Moon, flame of the candle and gazing at the thumb.
Ideally, Trataka is best done in the morning or evening hours on empty stomach.
Sun & Moon Gazing:
Gazing on the Sun is also known as Suryadhyana. Light is to the eyes as air id to lungs goes the saying. A brilliant light is an eye tonic. Sunlight can revitalize the eyes by improving the blood circulation in them along with itself being a strong germicide it can keep the eyes free from microbes for a longer duration.
The best time for gazing on the Sun is between 7 am to 8 am or 5 pm to 6 pm, or exactly at the time of sunrise and sunset. The intensity of the Sun rays, on account of its low angle - 45 degrees or less, at these hours is conducive for a human eye to gaze on. One should never stare directly at a mid-afternoon Sun, rays coming at a high angle, as sometimes it can damage the eyes beyond repair. Even at the mentioned hours start by gazing for shorter durations leading to a maximum of 5 to 10 minutes, or until the tears show up in the eyes, at a single go.
Keep the eyes relaxed, not staring hard, and avoid blinking as much as possible throughout the gazing period. Persons with defective or week vision must start with only looking in the direction of the Sun and not into the Sun, gradually moving to a full gaze as described.
Moon gazing can be practiced on a clear night - very beneficial on full Moon nights - in the same manner as mentioned for gazing on the Sun. Apart from gazing at the Sun exposure to ultraviolet light of the Sun rays is beneficial for many ailments.
Benefits of Gazing on the Sun, Moon:
Gazing on Sun, if carried out regularly,
Improves the clarity of vision
Treats the inflammation of the eyes
Helps alleviate conditions like Trachoma, Styes, Astigmatism, Myopia, Hypermetropia, and Presbyopia
How to do Candle Gazing
Gazing at the tip of a candle flame is another safe way of practicing Trataka by the authorities on Yoga. A simple wax candle or a basic lamp with a wick immersed in Ghee or any oil would suffice the purpose.
Sit in any meditative posture: Sudhasana, Sukhasana etc
Place a lit candle between 16 to 20 inches away from you, adjust within this range as per your requirement and comfort, a dark surrounding would help focus better on the flame
Use a pedestal or candle stand so that the flame is at the eye level of the practitioner
The candle should be placed directly in front, in line with the eyes, and not at any angle to them, the neck should not be turning any side
The flame should be steady, not wavering under any wind movement in the area
Close the eyes and try to concentrate on the breath for a while in order to be in the present
- Keep the body relaxed, erect and the spine vertically straight
Fix the gaze on the smallest possible area at the tip of the flame, steady the gaze with the willpower, the quality of the gaze is inversely proportional to the area at which the gaze is fixed
Keep the eyes relaxed and avoid blinking ( eyes will naturally adjust to the glare in some time) as far as possible until they become watery
After which close the eyes for some time and try to create the afterimage of the flame within the closed eyes
The clarity of the afterimage depends on the quality of the concentration with which the gazing was practiced
Once the image disappears, take a few breaths with the closed eyes and then slowly open them up
Apply the heat generated by the rubbed palms ( Palming) to the closed eyes for relaxing them further
Start with a minimum of one-minute duration gradually moving on to ten minutes or whatever id comfortable as per individual capacities.
Benefits of Gazing on the Candle:
Eyesight is improved
The muscles of the eyes are strengthened
Enhances concentration, intelligence, and Memory
Prepares the Mind for meditation as it induces deep focus and concentration
Improved self-confidence, willpower and patience leads to increased efficiency and productivity for whatever is undertaken
The Mind is slowed down, calmed, leading to inner peace
Decision-making ability is affected positively due to improved clarity of thought
Any mental afflictions are alleviated along with improved behavior
Alleviates insomnia, headache, and nightmares, it is an effective tool in the posse of techniques for fighting headache
Relieves day to day stress
Gherand Samhita even mentions attainment of the ability to clairvoyance as one of the advantages of candle gazing
Gazing on the Nose Tip:
Gazing on the nose tip or the nasal gaze is also known as Nasikagra Trataka. One can sit in any comfortable posture, keep the spine and the neck erect. Now fix both the eyes on the tip of the nose for one to two minutes. Repeat this multiple times by taking intervals of rest with closed eyes in between.
Gazing between the Eyebrows:
Also known as Bhrumadhya Trataka, it can be done by sitting in any comfortable posture keeping the torso and neck erect. Fix the gaze between the center of the eyebrows for one to two minutes, after which relax the eyes by keeping them closed for a few seconds. Repeat this for multiple times. This technique is also known as Shambhavi mudra.
Gazing between the eyebrows stimulates the olfactory and optic nerves: this, in turn, vitalizes the central and autonomic nervous systems. The nerves in the brain are soothed, generating a feeling of calmness. Moreover, the Mind and eyes are closely connected, the state of the Mind is reflected in the eye movements: agitated Mind will have the eye restless too and vice versa. It also helps activate the Ajna Chakra.
Gazing on the Right Shoulder:
Gazing on the right shoulder is also known as Daksinajatru Trataka ( gazing on the end of the right collarbone). Keeping the body erect, neck steady fix the gaze on the end of the right shoulder. Take care that the neck doesn't move or twist towards the right shoulder as only the eyeballs turn toward it. Stay in this position from a one minute to two minutes before closing the eyes for relaxing them.
Gazing on the Left Shoulder:
The left shoulder gaze or Vamanjatru Trataka is done in the similar manner as explained above for the right shoulder gaze, the only difference being that here the gaze is fixed on the left shoulder instead of the right shoulder.
With regular practice after the practitioner has attained a certain level of efficiency and stability in these practices, the last four Trataka practices can be done in a sequence with equal periods of stay at each of them.
Find below general considerations to be adhered to for all types of Trataka explained above:
Wash the eyes with cold water in order to stimulate blood circulation in them after the Trataka is done
Do not use any eye medicine to be applied externally after practicing Trataka
Who should avoid doing Trataka - Contraindications
Persons afflicted with Schizophrenia should avoid doing Trataka, or do it under expert guidance only.