Trataka is a gazing meditation written about in the Hatha Yoga Pradipika. It is one of the classical Sat Karmas (six cleansing techniques) of Hatha Yoga. Although it is not mentioned in the classical text, this meditation is best practiced with contact lenses and glasses removed.
According to the Hatha Yoga Pradipika, the technique is to gaze a candle flame, the rising or setting sun while it is orange not white, the moon, a fire, a flower, the sea, an image that brings us peace…pretty much anything.
We stare at this object resisting the urge to blink (if we blink, it’s ok, we simply continue resisting the urge to blink). Tears welling up in the eyes is a sign you are on the right track. The eyes and ducts get rinsed. The nose may run profusely, this is also a good sign. Have a handkerchief nearby for your comfort. The most profound cleansing of the eyes and sinuses happens with fire gazing compared to the other suggested objects.
A second benefit of fire gazing meditation is that it is an opportunity to honor our relationship with living fire. Fire is an important element for humans to commune with. Most of us have replaced our daily dose of fire with screen time, it satisfies us in a similar way but it’s artificial and arguably not beneficial. Nourishing ourselves with live fire via a candle flame or something larger stokes our Agni (our internal divine fire that brightens our ability to digest and understand). It feels good to make this a daily practice, to nourish and feed our inner fire, even if only for a moment. Check out Dr Robert Svoboda’s youtube channel and follow his 5ish Minutes with Dr Robert series. He has a good one on Trataka that touches on this.
The recommended duration from the HYP is 15 minutes. I find benefit from this fire gazing practice anywhere from 1-25 minutes. On our January Yoga Teacher Training certification immersion program in Costa Rica, Tuscany & Verona, Italy and France we candle gaze for 15-20 minutes followed by 3-5 minutes of meditating with eyes closed.
Technique: Focus on the flame (or your chosen object) with a relaxed but consistent gaze. Let everything else fall out of focus. Keep the eyes focused on the flame and softly engaged for as long as you can. Resist the urge to blink. If you blink, it’s ok, simply open your eyes up again and continue resisting the urge to blink. If you need to close your eyes and keep them closed, go right ahead. You may set a timer so you know when to close them or just close them when you feel like it. Once you have closed your eyes and decide to keep them closed, direct your gaze across your mind screen, chit-akasha at roughly the third eye area. If directing the gaze inward and upward is uncomfortable, find a position for your eyes that works. Shift your focus to this point and observe the visual stimuli. Observe for about 5 minutes with eyes closed if you were gazing a fire for 15 minutes or more.
From the Hatha Yoga Pradipika 2:32 (Bihar version):
“Trataka eradicates all eye diseases, fatigue and sloth and closes the doorway creating these problems. It should carefully be kept secret like a golden casket.”
“Trataka benefits not only the eyes but a whole range of physiological and mental functions. It is therapeutic in depression, insomnia, allergy, anxiety, postural problems, poor concentration and memory. Its most important effect is in jana chakra and the brain. The Gheranda Samhita mentions that it promotes clairvoyance or perception of subtle manifestations…Trataka unlocks the inherent energy of the mind and channelizes it to the dormant areas of consciousness”
We practice this meditation technique on our yoga teacher training course in Costa Rica, France and Italy three days in a row. We have beautiful access to unobstructed views of the sunrise and sunset in Costa Rica at The Sanctuary at Two Rivers so we enjoy another form of trataka, Sun gazing. If you are able, take your gazing meditation to the horizon one day and watch the sunrise or set. (This is only safe for your eyes when the sun is glowing orange.) This is a potent practice to align with the powerful and life giving rhythms of Mother Nature.
About Dr. Liz Lindh:
I am Dr. Liz Lindh, Doctor of Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine, holistic skincare and natural beauty expert, Yoga Teacher and Yoga Teacher Trainer. I am the Director of The Sanctuary at Two Rivers in Costa Rica and Founder of Lakshmi Rising School for Yoga & Wellness.