Pose of the Month: Trataka

Pose of the Month: Trataka

{ NOTE: this was previously Posted on December 9, 2010 here:

http://faern-in-the-works.com/2010/12/09/trataka/ }

Writing: Chrisandra Fox

Photography: Faern, faernworks.com\

Trataka is a yogic practice of gazing steadily at an object to build concentration (dharana). It is one of the six cleansing techniques, (shatkarmas), used traditionally to purify and harmonize the body, mind and senses before the practice of yoga asana.

Nowadays, it is common to practice asana and hope for calmness and mental clarity. The yogis used asana to prepare for meditation and establish the mind in its unwavering recognition of the true self. And meditation requires concentration.

Trataka helps to stabilize the mind and develop the psychic center of clarity and insight at the third eye, (ajna chakra). Increased concentration (dharana) can lead to an uninterrupted state of concentration (dhyana) through which the mind dissolves into a blissful, integrated awareness of both the dark and the light, (samadhi).

This simple and powerful practice can have far-reaching results. As your mind becomes steady and calm, delightfully resting in its own awareness, you can more easily abide in a natural state of inner peace.

There are two stages of trataka – external, or bahir trataka and internal, or antar trataka. Generally, we lose energy as the mind is drawn in different directions through the senses. By focusing attention on an external or internal object, the mind becomes steady and gains energy for meditation to naturally arise.

Various objects can be used for gazing steadily – a flower, an inspiring picture, the moon or whatever brings you a calm, peaceful feeling. We’ll practice here with the flame of a candle as a way to weave both stages of outer and inner visualization.

The Practice

Sit in a comfortable and steady seated position, such as simple cross-legged pose (sukhasana), sitting on your heels in thunderbolt pose (vajrasana), sitting with your legs in half and or full lotus (padmasana) or sitting with both feet placed between the thigh and calf muscles, with the left heel pressing against the perineum (siddhasana), or sit on a block or bolster.

Light a candle and place it an arm’s length away from your eyes. Lengthen your spine and neck, relax your shoulders and close your eyes. Let the downward flow of energy bring grounding and stability to your body, and the upward flow of energy bring lightness, attentiveness and ease.

Open your eyes and gaze at the wick of the candle, into the center of the flame. Relax the muscles surrounding your eyes. Keep your eyes open, but not strained. Try not to blink, gaze steadily at the flame of the candle and focus your attention on the unwavering wick. Bring full concentration to the wick for as long as you can or until your eyes begin to water.

Close your eyes and find the image of the flame behind your closed lids. Hold this image in your awareness at the center of your eyebrows, your third-eye point. You may become aware of your thoughts, your feelings and the sensations in your body. Keep drawing your attention right back to the image of the flame.

When the image is gone, open your eyes and return your gaze to the wick of the candle. Gaze steadily into the flame and bring your full mental energy into the flame for as long as you can.

Then, close your eyes and focus on the image of the flame at your third eye for as long as the image is clear.

Continue moving from the external flame to the internal flame. Notice how your concentration sharpens with practice. When you are ready to end your practice, chant three rounds of OM, allowing the vibration of the sound to completely fill your body and resonate towards your third eye point.

Then, meditate in the silence. Keep awareness at ajna chakra and continue moving your mind toward the still quiet place inside, aware of your body, aware of your thoughts and becoming more and more enchanted by your sense of inner peace.

*Trataka is a simple and powerful practice that can strengthen the eyes, improve concentration and memory and lead to stages of meditation that can bring deep peace. As you gain spiritual experience, it is always helpful to work with a qualified teacher who can guide you. Om

Chrisandra Fox teaches weekly classes at Yoga Tree, Yoga Garden and leads The Heart of Renewal Retreats in California and beyond. She teaches in Yoga Tree’s 200-hour Teacher Training.

Chrisandra@gmail.com

Faern is a mixed media artist, photographer and yoga practitioner in San Francisco. Visit her website, follow her on Twitter, or like her on Facebook.

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