Trataka means “gaze” in Sanskrit and while the practice may appear passive, it’s alchemical, enhancing one’s ability to dissolve distractions and cultivate clarity over time. The Hatha Yoga Pradipika defines the ritual as “looking intently with an unwavering gaze at a small point until tears are shed.”
In the subtle body, the eyes are the windows to our souls, and in the physical body, they’re the most complex of all the organs. Nearly half the brain is dedicated to vision, evidence for the connection between focusing your gaze and quieting your mind.
Trataka aligns with the definition of concentration offered in The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, a text that’s widely regarded as the yogic bible. The Sutras say that in order to achieve inner peace we must first master meditation, which can be learned by focusing on a single object with uninterrupted attention. Unfortunately, staring at screens doesn’t count. In fact, it can have the opposite effect, as our growing addiction to technology is directly correlated to increasing stress levels and decreasing attention spans. Trataka counteracts this, working to lower anxiety and improve memory and concentration. And, like any new technique, it gets easier with time.
How to practice Trataka:
We recommend practicing in a dark room so that the flame is your primary source of light.
• Place your candle about two feet in front of you with the flame at eye level.
• Take a comfortable seat, ensuring that your hips are higher than your knees.
• Fix your gaze on the flame in front of you, allowing your expression to soften.
• Do your best to avoid blinking and close your eyes only when it’s absolutely necessary, most likely when they’ve begun to water.
• The longer you resist blinking, the easier it will be to maintain the image of the flame with closed eyes.
• Visualize the flame in the center of your brow, also known as your third eye.
• Work towards a steady and uninterrupted focus on the image of the flame, that simultaneously quiets the mind.
• When your session is complete, blow out the candle and take a moment to notice how you feel.
We recommend starting small with 5 or 10-minute sits and building up your endurance from there. We invite you to view the flickering flame as a representation of the fluctuations of the mind, and the image that remains after the eyes are closed as a reminder that our greatest source of light comes from within.