Trataka - The Enchanting Practice of Yogic Candle Gazing
Candle gazing, formally known in Sanskrit as Trataka, is an enchanting way to quiet the mind and enhance your ability to meditate. One practices trataka by focusing a gaze with high concentration at an object (yantra). (In this post, the yantra is a candle flame, but there are other wonderful options that can be explored, such as gazing at an om symbol or “Stare Gazing,” a powerful technique of gazing into another’s eyes).
Why practice trataka?
This very calming and enjoyable yogic technique offers many benefits (to both the energetic and physical body). Let’s explore a few of them.
Practices concentration. Candle gazing is a form of concentration (Dharana), the sixth of the eight limbs of yoga. People unfamiliar with yoga often consider yoga as just the physical postures (Asana, or the third limb of yoga), but it’s important to focus on all eight limbs of yoga to reach our supreme state of consciousness. Adding candle gazing to your yoga practice advances you to the sixth limb of yoga. This will better prepare you for meditation.
Enhances Your Sixth Sense. The third eye energy center of the body, located in the space between the eyebrows, is known as the Ajna Chakra in the east and commonly thought of as our “sixth sense” here in the west. The third eye is stimulated by candle gazing and concentration. Controlling the blink reflex stimulates the pineal gland, relating to the intuition center of the body. Stimulating this chakra leads to more clarity, self-confidence, spirituality, psychic ability or intuition, and deepens the connection with our higher self.
Eases related health conditions. An unbalanced Ajna chakra is associated with depression, insomnia and sleeping difficulties, migraines, brain injuries and vision and hearing issues. Candle gazing balances the Ajna chakra, which could help to improve these conditions.
Improves eye health and vision. Trataka strengthens the eye muscles and cleanses the eyes. During trataka, it’s common for the eyes to water or tear up. Healthy tear ducts fight eye infections and keep our eyes healthy.
There are many approaches to practicing trataka. I offer you the method I learned in my yoga teacher training with Marion McConnell of South Okanagan Yoga Academy. With this method, you can practice Trataka in less than five minutes!
Create a quiet, relaxing space and sit down comfortably in a chair or on the floor. Light a candle and place it about a foot in front of you. Gaze at the flame for a minute or two, withstanding the urge to blink or look away. Next, close your eyes and visualize the image of the flame for a minute, letting this image “burn” into your third eye. Reopen your eyes and reconnect your focus to the physical flame for another minute. Gently blink the eyes and return to your eased state of awareness before you began the exercise.
This is a method I often use at the end of deep relaxation in my gentle yoga classes and in my yoga healing workshops. I hope you enjoy it and will make it a part of your yoga practice. Namaste!