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Trataka, an access to consciousness

Our previous articles explored the yogic practices of Shatkarma, which are processes for cleaning the body and mind from their impurities. We’ve seen that to attain the union of the consciousness sought by Yoga, the Prana must circulate through the Nadis freely and become balanced. Once balanced, it starts flowing through the Sushumna Nadi, and the mind becomes focused.


There are six Shatkarma practices in yogic philosophy.

The first three seek to purify the body and mind from impurities and waste. That is done through the practices of Dhauti Kriyas, which cleans the digestive tract; Basti Kriya, purifying the lower intestine and anus; and Neti Kriya, clearing the head region. Through these practices, the Nadis become free from blockages, and our Prana has a free way to circulate through the chakras.

The three last practices want to activate and make the energy circulate. In our previous article, we discussed the Nauli (Lauliki) practice. We have seen that it generates energy in the Manipura Chakra and activates the digestive fire.

This article will dive into Trataka Kriya, activating the energy in the Ajna Chakra, cleansing and calming the brain region.


Trataka, how to practice.

There are three practices of Trataka: Bahiranga Trataka, Antaranga Trataka, and Adho Trataka.

Trataka

The first practice, Bahir Trataka, is the easiest and can be done in preparation for the others. In it, the practitioner focuses on a physical object of his choice. The object can be anything (moon, star, tree, idol, picture of a guru, etc.). The yogi must have a particular interest in this object so that his mind can easily focus and get absorbed by it without disturbance. Daily regular practice will make the image evident in the practitioner’s mind. He’ll be able to fix his gaze for a longer period without distraction. Eventually, the object will stay clear even when he closes his eyes. He’ll then be ready to practice Antar Trataka, the second type of Trataka practice.


In Antar Trataka, the yogi fixes his gaze on an image or mental symbol behind his closed eyes. The image can be the same as the object visualized in Bahir Trataka, or it can be a yantra, a geometrical diagram, etc. Once again, the symbol has to be particularly attractive to the practitioner. With practice, the yogi will be able to focus on the chosen image and perceive it without the preliminary use of Bahir Trataka. At some point, the yogi experiences a state where he merges with and perceives only his symbol. It channels his energy, and concentration and meditation can be attained.


The third type, Adho Trataka, is a practice between Bahir and Antar. In this one, the method is done with the eyes half open and half closed. The focus is fixed on an object, which is both physical, placed in front of the practitioner’s eyes, and mental, imagined by the practitioner.


To practice any type of Trataka, the practitioner must sit comfortably with his back and neck straight. He then stares at an object without blinking. In Bahir and Adho Trataka, the physical object must be placed at the eye’s level. A flame is often used in the practice of Trataka. In Bahir Trataka, the flame is positioned about an arm’s distance from the eyes.


The practitioner will start the practice by closing his eyes and calming his mind. He becomes aware of his whole body and makes it steady. This step is essential because the symbol should remain still. Usually, in Trataka, there are physical and psychological reasons why the symbol gets unsteady. The first reason is because of the natural movement of the eyelids. The second reason is the instability of the mind during the practice. The practitioner will learn to steady his gaze, body, and mind with training.

Once the body is steady, the practitioner will open his eyes and stare at the brighter spot of the flame. He’ll keep watching the flame without blinking for thirty seconds up to two minutes. He’ll close his eyes just before they start burning and the tears want to flow, and keep them closed until he cannot see the flame anymore.

Then, he’ll open his eyes again and repeat the practice. If any thoughts appear in the mind during the procedure, the yogi won’t give it importance and will just let the idea be and disappear by itself.

When he wants to finish the practice, the yogi will close his eyes and keep them closed until the image disappears and will keep watching the dark space behind his closed eyelids, with awareness, for a couple of minutes. Then he’ll open his eyes again and will have completed his practice.


The choice of the object is also crucial in the practice of Trataka. As explained in our article about Dharana and Dhyana, it plays an essential role in the ability of the yogi to concentrate. If the symbol is unattractive to the practitioner, the mind and gaze will constantly get out of focus and distracted. The goals and benefits of Trataka won’t be met.


General benefits.

Nadis and Chakra

In the practice of Trataka, the yogi fixes his attention on the object until a state of internal awareness and one-pointedness is attained. In this state, there must be an awareness of the viewer (himself), the view (the object of focus, physical or mental), and the process of viewing (action of practicing). This is Dharana, or concentration, described in a previous article. Once he maintains that focus and awareness for a prolonged period, he’ll experience a meditative state. With time, the yogi’s mind merges with the object. He loses the sense of self and the awareness of the action and flows into a state of absorption in the symbol, eventually leading to Samadhi.

Chakras, Nadis

It is also said that one can attain the divine vision (antar drishti or inner vision) with the practice of Trataka. From the Mooladhara Chakra up to the Ajna Chakra, the Ida and Pingala Nadis cross each Chakra. The two nadis meet at Ajna Chakra, and the individual and global experiences become one. The yogi transcends the five elements explored in the first five chakras (Mooladhara to Vishuddhi), and his sixth sense is awakened. Trataka activates the Ajna Chakra, where the Prana flows, and helps it travel up to the Sahasrara Chakra to meet the supreme consciousness.


Shambhavi mudra

Trataka is also essential in performing the Shambhavi mudra, where one looks at his eyebrow center. It teaches the yogi to focus on a specific point for a prolonged period. It is said that once the Shambhavi mudra is mastered, the yogi can attain Shambhavi Siddhi, or control over the elements. The practitioner then becomes omniscient and omnipotent, which means he knows and can do anything.


Trataka can also have benefits for the eyes and promotes good vision. It works as an optometric exercise for sight focus. It can also increase memory and is helpful for people who have insomnia and nervous tension. It can help build self-confidence.



Precautions and recommendations.

The practice of Trataka should be done in the early morning or at night.


If practicing Bahir Trataka, where the object is a physical one, the practice should be done for a maximum of 5 minutes. The duration depends on the individual and shouldn’t reach the point where the tears come out of the eyes. To practice Trataka for a longer period, the yogi must seek the guidance of an experienced teacher or guru.


Practitioners should avoid doing Trataka looking at an unsteady flame, as it can hurt the eyes and not provide the benefits the practice seeks. The practitioner should also avoid using the sun as a physical symbol, as looking at the sun with the naked eye can be damaging.

For people with visual problems, there shouldn’t be any double vision occurring during the practice, and the method shouldn’t be done wearing glasses. People with glaucoma or epilepsy must avoid the Trataka practices.




At Japam, we give Shatkarma classes individually, in person, and online. Our teachers are experienced in teaching and practicing the Shatkarma and can guide you in doing them safely. Don’t hesitate to contact or visit us for more information.

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