Trataka or tratak is a yogic kriya (exercise) where you fix your gaze on a set point and continue to focus on it for a short period of time. Hatha yoga considers Trataka to be a part of the Shat-Kriyas or Shat-karmas or Shuddhi-kriyas i.e. cleansing processes. You could think of it as meditation that is done with open eyes.
The benefits of doing Trataka
- Fixing your vision on a set point or object immediately calms the mind and brings you the present moment, making you more mindful. When you keep your eyes still, it helps to make the mind still, too
- It helps improve focus, memory and concentration
- Doing Trataka while you are in any balancing yoga poses [eg: tree pose, dancer’s pose] helps to steady the body
- It helps to slow down the breathing, which has many positive physical and mental effects
- For those suffering from anxiety disorder or panic attacks, it helps ease the anxiety and brings down the frequency and severity of panic episode.
Types of Trataka
1 – Bindu Trataka
Here, you gaze at a point on the wall in front of you. You could even draw a prominent dot on a plain white sheet of paper, using a marker and place that sheet in front of you, at eye level. Keep your eyes fixed on this dot.
2 – Jyoti Trataka [candle gazing]
You may use a lamp or a candle for this and focus on the flame. The advantage of Jyoti Trataka is that you can do this in a dark room. Make sure that the flame is fairly steady—it shouldn’t waver or get extinguished due to wind.
3 – Mirror Trataka
Sit in front of a mirror and just look into your own eyes, or at your third eye, between the eyebrows. There may be tendency to get distracted with your appearance. But just keep the focus and continue looking in a non-judgemental manner.
General guidelines for Trataka
- Whichever type you choose to do, take care that you are well rested before you start
- Choose a time and place such that you will not be disturbed for around 15 minutes and, if possible, can have the room to yourself
- You can also do it with a partner or as a group, but make sure that participants do not distract each other or disturb the environment of the room
- Avoid doing Trataka when you are feeling unwell, or have a headache, or if you are experiencing any other physical discomfort. You could do a simple breath awareness meditation instead
- No need to do deep breathing during Trataka; your breathing should be natural and rhythmic.
Step-by-step method to do Trataka Kriya
- Be seated on the floor or a chair, facing the object/point you have chosen
- Next to you, place a bowl of water and a small napkin or kerchief
- You may sit in any asana such as sukhasana, padmasana, ardhpadmasana or vajrasana Select an asana that you will be comfortable in for the entire duration
- You should be seated at least about an arm’s length away from your object or point of Trataka. If you feel you are squinting your eyes, you’re probably sitting too close to the object and need to move away from it
- Once you are ready to start, fix your gaze on the object or chosen point without blinking your eyes too much. Your focus should be unwavering and such that, gradually, you feel there’s only you and the object of Trataka—you lose awareness of anything else in the surroundings.
- If your mind wanders, and it likely will, just let the thoughts flow and then bring your awareness back to the point/object of focus
- If your eyes start to water, or you feel you cannot keep them open any longer, gently close them and visualise the flame or the point you were focussing on. Continue this for a few minutes
- Now, place your palm on one eye, open the other eye and again focus on the flame/point
- Place a wet napkin on the closed eye—this helps to further relax your eyes. Wipe gently moving the wet napkin from the eye towards the ear
- Repeat the same on the other eye. Then gently open both eyes and blink a few times
- Your Trataka is complete.
You can also do Trataka by gazing at the moon, sun [Surya Trataka or sun yoga] or the stars at night, or even a photograph of a deity. Warning: While doing Surya Trataka, you must follow specific guidelines so that you avoid damaging your eyes; consult a competent yoga trainer for the same.
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