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Trataka (Candle Gazing) Cleansing Technique


candleflame

Trataka (त्राटक) is one of the six cleansing techniques mentioned in the Hatha Yoga Pradipika, the classical text on the practices of Hatha Yoga. The six techniques are: Neti (nasal cleansing), Basti (yogic enema), Dhauti (digestive tract and intestinal cleansing), Kapalabhati (breathing technique involving forced, short bursts of exhalation), Nauli (abdominal churning) and Trataka (eye cleansing and concentration).

Trataka defined

In an effort to find the origin or the derivation of the word ‘trataka’ I tried looking it up in the dictionary. Surprisingly, however, when I checked Apte’s dictionary I couldn’t find the word there. In Monier-Williams also it just states that it is a yoga technique for cleansing the eyes – nothing about its meaning or how the word is derived. In his commentary on the Hatha Yoga Pradipika, Swami Muktibodhananda simply states that Trataka means to gaze steadily at an object.

In shloka 2.31 of Hatha Yoga Pradipika Trataka is defined as "looking intently with an unwavering gaze at a small point until the eyes begin to tear, is called Trataka by the great teachers".

Trataka can be either internal or external; that is the object that is gazed upon can be an internal object (for example the third eye) or an external one (for example the flame of a candle). In general, however, the most commonly practiced form of Trataka involves gazing at a candle flame. That is the technique that I will be describing in this article.

Trataka technique

  • Light a candle and place it on a small table around 3 to 4 feet in front of you.
  • Sit in a comfortable posture with the spine upright and the arms and shoulders relaxed. You can assume any meditative posture which you can maintain without any movement for the duration of the Trataka practice.
  • Make sure that the flame is at the level of your eyes. Also, make sure that you are facing the candle directly without having to turn the neck even slightly.
  • It is important that the flame remains steady during the concentration routine. So, make sure that there no breeze around of any kind to disturb the flame. If needed, turn off any fans or air conditioner in the room.
  • Take a few deep breaths to relax. Close the eyes and watch your breath as you inhale and exhale for about five to seven breaths. This will allow the breath to settle down and bring you into the present moment.
  • Now, gaze at the flame intently and keep your gaze on it without getting distracted towards outer disturbances and thoughts.
  • Keep your vision focused and steady on the flame without blinking, for as long as it is comfortable to you. Try to avoid any kind of body movement during the entire practice.
  • Keep your gaze anchored on some part of the flame, rather than the candle or wick. If thoughts come up in the mind, just become aware of them and then ignore them. Try to maintain your awareness and focus on the flame. 
  • Continue to gaze at the flame until you cannot keep your eyes open and tears start flowing. Once this happens, close your eyes.
  • When you close the eyes, you may be able to visualize an after-image of the flame with closed eyes. Try to bring this image at the point between the eyebrows at the center of the forehead (the third eye location).
  • The depth and level of your concentration will determine how clear the after-image is. If you cannot visualize the after-image of the flame with closed eyes, or it wavers constantly or looses clarity, then re-apply your concentration to restore the position of the after-image.
  • When the image begins to fade out completely, bring your awareness back to your breathing and begin to watch the flow of breath at the tip of the nose for about 7 to 8 breaths.
  • You can open your eyes at this point and repeat the full gazing routine as given above one more time.

In the beginning you may feel that the eyes begin to water after only a few minutes. However, with practice, your eyes will be able to continue the gaze for longer periods and you can practice Trataka for up to twenty minutes or so.

Benefits of Trataka

Shloka 2.32 of the Hatha Yoga Pradipika states "Trataka eradicates all eye diseases, fatigue and sloth and closes the doorway to these problems". Some of the benefits associated with Trataka are:

  • Improves eyesight and vision.
  • Improves concentration, intelligence and memory.
  • Excellent method as preparation for mantra meditation.
  • Enhances self-confidence, patience and willpower.
  • Develops greater work efficiency and productivity.
  • Calms the mind and provides inner peace and silence.
  • Brings greater clarity in mind and improves decision-making ability.
  • Helps to overcome mental, behavioral and emotional ailments.
  • Provides stress relief and deep relaxation.
  • Deepens the sleep and cures sleep related disorders such as headache, insomnia, nightmares, etc.
  • According to Gherand Samhita (shloka 5.54), Trataka promotes clairvoyance or perception of subtle manifestations.

Tips for Trataka Concentration

  • Trataka is best practiced on an empty stomach during early-morning hours or late evening hours just before going to bed. If you practice it during the daytime, make sure that the room is dark so that focusing on the flame is easier.
  • Try getting a decent sized flame by adjusting the size of the wick. It will help in achieving a better after-image of the flame and it will be easier to visualize it with improved concentration.
  • Do not strain your eyes while gazing on the flame. The eyes adjust naturally in due course of time and it becomes easier to concentrate and gaze on the flame for longer periods of time.
  • As I mentioned earlier, because Trataka develops deep focus and concentration, it is used as a very effective pre-meditation stage. At the end of the Trataka routine, you may continue with your own mantra meditation.

35 comments to Trataka (Candle Gazing) Cleansing Technique

  • chandni

    Namaste Subash,

    Thank you for upholding the Dharma.

    Shanti,

    Chandni

  • Namaste!
    I have one question about the ajna chakra position. Here in the articale you say the third eye is ubicated in the center of the forehead and sometimes I’ve heard it is between the eyebrows (so it would be in a lower position). Could you explain me how locate it exactly. Thank you very much in advance. I’m new to your site but I have found it very useful as I’ve seen.
    Jose

    • admin

      Dear Jose,
      Welcome to my blog and thanks for visiting it. You are right about the location of the ajna chakra position. Traditionally it is represented as being between the two eyebrows. In my post also I’ve mentioned, ” point between the eyebrows at the center of the forehead (the third eye location)”. I now realize that the words “center of forehead” are redundant and need not have been added.
      Please browse around the blog and provide any feedback that you might have. Thanks and all the best,
      Subhash

  • [...] class at the beginning of our training. We created a posture workshop was introduced to Trataka (candle gazing) which I really enjoyed and made meditation a lot easier. I suggest giving it a go if you have [...]

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  • kamran

    hi,your article is very useful. i also want to know that after how many days or weak,i shall observe myself successful in this exercise? or how much time is minimum required for the success?thanks

    • Dear Kamran,
      There is no question of success or failure while practicing these techniques. They are supposed to give us better health and are to be practiced on an on-going basis. Ideally you want to make them a life-long habit and hopefully keep getting the benefits.

  • Frances

    Hi there, Thank you so much for this. I find that I cannot hold my focus for more than 2 seconds before I blink, which doesn’t give me enough time to concentrate on picking up the flame image. Therefore I let myself blink a few times before finally being able to hold my gaze for a bit longer and then about 10 seconds I blink.

    Still doing this technique, am I OK to hold my focus on the flame for 5 – 10 minutes without worrying if I blink or not before then closing my eyes and focussing on the image of the flame?

    Thank you :)

    • Dear Frances,
      I am so glad that you find my website helpful. Thank you so much for your feedback and query.
      Even though we set the intention not to blink during the Trataka practice, it is perfectly OK to blink if it happens naturally. In my own practice, I find myself blinking occasionally in the first couple of minutes. After that the eyes begin to settle down and the gap between blinks goes on increasing.
      Subhash

  • BSC Aditya Singh Dinkar

    Hi Subhash. I am an engineer, working in Kerala. I’m preparing for IES. I have started this technique just one week back. I want to ask some questions regarding this which are following: -
    1) I have fixed 10-15 mins daily for this. Suppose that if tear will not come in these 10-15 mins, then, I have to continue or I can stop also at this point of time?
    2) If the distance between eye and flame is 1.5-2 feet, then it is ok or I should increase it for better concentration?
    3) Daily I am not doing it using candle flame. Only on sunday or holiday with this candle flame, rest of the days I’m doing with black dot on a white paper pasted on a wall. So, will it be useful or all the days I have to do it with candle flame?
    4) Can I do it while sitting on a chair or I have to cross my leg for better concentration?
    5) I am poor in concentration and focus. I’m practising Pranayam for last 2-3 years. Now, my concentration is improved as compared to previous. But, it is not upto the required level. Can you suggest me some other methods for increasing concentration?
    Thank you in advance.

    • Hello Aditya,
      i am so glad to see that you have developed a regular practice of trataka. Here are the answers, to the best of my knowledge:

        10-15 min is a good duration for the practice. The guideline is that if and when the eyes begin to water, you should stop and close eyes. However, it is not necessary to wait until the eyes begin to water.
        The comfortable distance is about 3 feet.
        Any object of focus is OK for this practice. In my own experience, I find a candle to be the most effective in building deeper focus.
        Sitting in a chair is perfectly OK for the practice.
        I think you are on the right track for improving concentration. Wishing you all the best.
  • Prashant

    Helo Sir.
    My name is prashant .am preaparing for pcs exams.i find problem memory and recalling facts.tried many things bt nt benificial.
    Need ur suggestion and guidence.
    Pls tell in detail abt nasal gaze and its benifit.
    Prashant

    • Dear Prashant,
      Nasal gaze is a meditation technique wherein you are supposed to gaze at the tip of the nose while the eyes are still closed. This is supposed to develop deep level of concentration and you are more likely to stay focused on your mantra while meditating.
      I wish you all the best in your exam.
      subhash

  • Sade

    Hello,

    Thanks for useful info here. I am confused about the safety of Trataka. Some websites say it’s safe, others warn it’s dangerous without explaining why. I’m in London so I don’t know where to go for training for this type of meditation.

    I have started practicing around 10-15 minutes a day. I do notice that one eye is sometimes bloodshot after. Is it straining my eyes to produce tears perhaps? I do have dry eyes at the moment. I started doing this meditation to improve my poor vision, I’m short sighted.

    Many thanks .

    • Dear Sade,
      I don’t believe Trataka practice is dangerous as long as you make sure that you don’t strain your eyes during practice. If the eyes begin to water at any time, you should close and relax the eyes. As per some of the literature that I have read, Trataka can actually help in cleansing the eyes and possibly stabilize your vision. One recommendation that I have read for dry eyes is to wash the eyes in cold Triphala water. See if that helps.
      All the best,
      subhash

      • Sade

        Thanks for the reply. Yes I’ve read about the powder.As its one of our most valuable senses we’re talking about here, Im naturally cautious about what goes in them and how to best care for them. Will research more and see where it takes me. Thank you!

  • Prashant

    helo sir.
    Thanks for ur reply.
    Want to know that whether eyes should be open or closed during nasal gaze.pls confirm time for doing it.

    • Dear Prashant,
      I have read in some places that you can keep the eyes half closed. In my own practice, I prefer to keep the eyes closed but keep the inner focus on the tip of the nose.

  • Prashant

    sir,
    thanks for ur reply.
    How we wil know that v r doing it correctly.
    When v will feel benifit from it.
    Pls explain in berife.
    Duration of doing it.

  • Dear Prashant,
    The key is not to feel any strain in your practice. How soon you will feel the benefit will depend upon the individual – it is not possible to give any time assessment.

  • kaustubh

    I am practicing tratak ,i try to keep it regular but because of some reason there is interruption, i want to know that if i want to develop powers then can i have break of one or 2 days or its no break at all

  • kaustubh

    How much does it take to develop powers?? and what are stages ?? I am performing tratak but i don’t know how will i understand that i am improving??

  • varun

    sir i m practising trataka since a month.i practice it upto 10 mins still my eyes doesnt get watered.is it safe to continue the practice or should i stop after 10 mins.i dont blink while performing tratak. i want to know can i blink my eyes in between??

    • Hi Varun,
      I am glad that you are practicing Trataka on a regular basis. It is definitely safe to continue the practice even though your eyes don’t water. Blinking is something that happens naturally. Having set the intention to maintain the gaze without blinking, let your natural instinct ride. That means do not force yourself not to blink. If the eyes happen to blink naturally, it is OK.

  • Monie

    I have extreme dry eyes. Is it good for me to practice trataka? Would it harm my eyes even more?

  • Arsh Khan

    Dear subhash ji
    Namaskar,
    Sir I m very happy to find ur site its very useful..Sir I m practicing of traatak on shakti chakra (hypnotic spiral)minimum 30-40 minute inevening time 7-8pm.for produces special megnatic power of hypnosis.Sir I m practicing daily for learn hypnotysm.I m feeling very special and diffrent type of energy whole day.my question is that can I do candle gazing practice in mid night after 12-1am during keep contenue traatak on shakti chakra.sir plz suggest me both diffrent type of practice is safe same time?

    • Dear Arsh, your question relating to the practice of trataka for hypnotism or at midnight are beyond my level of expertise. Normally I practice trataka for about fifteen minutes in the morning, just before my meditation.

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