Trataka or candle gazing is a term and practice that is very common to those studying and practicing the true forms of yoga. Trataka is a tool used by those who want to still the mind and clear up any thoughts or emotions during meditation. However, this is not the only reason.
This practice is described in the Hatha Yoga Pradipika as a method of acting on our anja chakra or the third eye chakra. The third eye is in between and above our physical eyes. The anja chakra is said to be the gateway to our spiritual awakening and enlightenment.
According to the Hatha Yoga Pradipika (2.33), “trataka eradicates all diseases associated with vision & calms the mind”.
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What is Trataka?
Trataka is defined as concentrated gazing. It is the method of meditation that involves focusing your attention on an object and holding that gaze for as long as you can. It is used to dissolve thoughts and illusion and bring us to the realization of our true selves. Ultimately, it opens the gateway to enlightenment.
Most people can practice Trataka or candle gazing, but it is important to know how to do it right. There are various forms of trataka including sustained focus on a candle flame, on a point on a wall, a flower, the sun, the moon, and even the stars. However, the most common practice of trataka is the use of a candle.
However, what you should really be using is an oil lamp. We discuss this later in this post.
Types of Trataka Options
There are many types of trataka but the most commonly known as yogic eye exercise is bahiranga trataka. This method is meditating on an external object, such as the ones listed below.
Many yogis and gurus will however ask you not to start out with any of the bahiringa tratakas below, but stick to the oil lamp option. There are many reasons for this that we will not get into here. The main reason however, is that certain external objects including the sun or moon should not be meditated on in certain weather conditions or times of the day. They could potentially have a negative effect on the psyche – and this is not something to risk.
The most common trataka meditations are listed below. However, for the purposes of those who want to start this yogic practice; we will only be focusing on the oil lamp gazing meditation.
- Morning Sun – could help kapha or vata natured individuals
- Moon – more for pitta natured individuals
- Spot on the wall
- Oil lamps – good for everyone and detailed below
- Candles – non-toxic options like soy or beeswax only
Why Should I Use an Oil Lamp for Trataka?
Contrary to general belief here in the “West”, there is a reason why it is better to use oil lamps and not candles. Candles that are made in large facilities are made with chemicals that are toxic to us anyways.
When the sages and yogis were writing about this, they were using the clarified butter that came from a cow. Extremely natural, and it does not have any toxins either.
That product is called ghee.
Ghee is basically clarified butter. It can be found in most (if not every) Indian or Asian grocery stores. This is the same product that is used in Indian cooking too. While some people refer to it as “desi ghee”, which means “Indian clarified butter”, it is simply supposed to be referred to as “ghee”.
Another safe option to use in the oil lamp is sesame oil. If you cannot find ghee, sesame oil is your next best option.
As mentioned in my list above, if you must use a candle, use one that is made of 100% soy or beeswax. These products are not filled with toxins that you are absorbing through your eye’s mucous membranes.
Related: Non Toxic Candle Options
How to Create a Trataka Oil Lamp
You only need a few things to get this lamp going:
- Ghee or sesame oil
- A “holder” – these can be bought at Indian stores too or you can use a glass/ceramic saucer too. This diya or ghee lamp on amazon is a safe and cheap option
- Cotton wicks
Pour about 3-5 tablespoons of ghee/oil in the holder. Take the cotton wick and soak it in the oil. Keep one end of it “outside the holder and light it.
Once your practice is ended, make sure to blow off the flame.
How to Perform Trataka or Candle Gazing?
The goal of the following steps is to quiet the mind, bring all focus and attention on the flame and sustain focus until you cannot. This ability to quiet the mind with this practice indicates controlling the mind’s constant tendency to rush with thoughts.
Daily practice will eventually open the mind to the awaken to a higher purpose.
- Sit in padmasana pose (lotus) or a comfortable sitting position like sukhasana (comfortable lotus)
- Place the ghee lamp on a table in front of you (about 2 feet away from you)
- Important!!! – Make sure the flame is at your third eye level. In this state, your eyes are slightly looking up at the flame
- Focus on the flame and the flame only without blinking
- Hold focus for as long as you can
- Once you start to shed a tear, you can close your eyes
- Keep your eyes close and rest them until you feel okay
- Repeat this another 2 or 3 times if you want to.
- Splash your eyes with cold water to clear up any heat that remained from the practice. DO NOT rub your eyes.
What are the Benefits of Trataka?
Eastern medicine is still being challenged about its validity or benefits. Ultimately, it comes down to you the practitioner who puts faith, dedication, and the guidance of a teacher to ultimately see the benefits yourself.
Here are some of the benefits to look out for in your own practice. And note – everything takes time. If you have faith and consistency, you WILL reap the benefits.
- Eye related illness (including sight)
- The ability to discern better, and contemplate
- Expand intuition by focusing energy on the anja chakra
- Reduces mental tension
- Increase awareness of the lower and higher self
- Assists in curing insomnia
- Brings peace and calmness
- It is a key meditation that brings a union of hatha yoga and raja yoga
Who Should Not Perform Trataka?
While trataka yoga meditation is good for most people, there are a some classifications of people that should not practice this meditation. You MUST speak with a licensed professional before starting any practice, and this is no less.
- Hypersensitive individuals
- Those with psychosis or other advanced mental diseases
- Those with very low ojas
Disclaimer: please see your mental and physical health professional before starting any practice.
When Should You Perform Trataka? Night or Day or Both?
It is safe to practice oil lamp trataka at any time of the day. However, the best times to practice are early morning as you arise, or before you go to bed. Only thing is to make sure you practice this on an empty stomach.
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There are many benefits and reasons why people chose to take on this practice. While extremely effective, it is very important to practice it the right way.
People who practice it incorrectly, or shouldn’t be practicing it will undoubtedly not benefit from it. If you need more information or guidance, leave me a note below and I can work with you.
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