Tartraka is the practice of candle gazing, where you spend time with your eyes focused solely on the flame of a candle.
For me, this is a practice of concentration, and therefore part of dharana practice.
Dharana is the sixth of the Eight Limbs of Yoga as described by Patanjali in the Yoga Sutras. It refers to concentration of the mind. Practicing dharana involves fixing the mind on a particular object — either external (such as an image or deity) or internal (such as a chakra).Yogapedia
Some say that tatraka is part of Hatha Yoga, or what’s considered to be the physical practice of yoga (i.e. asana, or the yoga poses we practise on the mat). Maybe this is because one practises this with the sense of sight (with eyes open). However, I don’t really think it’s there is a right or wrong thought process on what it is. Let’s focus on what it helps with.
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Tatraka gives similar benefits as other forms of meditation. Here are a few:
- Strengthens your eye muscles
- Helps to treat some eye disorders
- Helps with insomnia
- Helps fight depression
- Promotes better focus and concentration
- Improves emotional stability
Contraindications: anyone living with schizophrenia or other psychological issues.
(source for the above: Sureshot Ayurveda)
How to practise tatraka
Make sure you sacred space for meditation is dark or darkened. Candle gazing perhaps is best practised at dawn or before bed when the sun is not up. Alternatively, close off the curtains, dim your lights, and prepare for your practice.
Remove all distractions, such as your phones and mobile devices. If you’re living in a household of people, inform them you’d prefer not to be disturbed during this duration.
Find a flat surface with is preferably eye- or shoulder-level for your candle. Remove all flammable material nearby. Select your candle. You may use candles of any colour or length, and you may use a scented candle if you like.
Place your candle in its proper holder or container (such as a saucer) and light it. As with all meditation practices, wear comfortable clothes and ensure the room temperature is at a level that allows you a good sit practice for at least five minutes.
Set your timer or meditation app for the duration of time you would like. Then, about two feet (approximately) away from the candle, sit with spine upright (this helps because if you intend to sit for awhile, bad posture may result in low back pain or other physical discomfort).
Keep your eyes focused on the candle and do your best to keep your eyes steady. You may find your eyes watering, which is fine. Consider this a good cleansing practice for your eyes. Blink those tears away and keep your gaze steady on the candle. Sensations of irritation will pass if you keep focused on the flame.
Whenever you find your mind or eyes wandering, bring them back to the flame. Again, as with all concentration practices, your environment may fade as time passes; all that is left is you and the candle flame.
When your timer goes off, wipe away any tears if necessary and take a short savasana i.e. lie down and close your eyes for a duration of time. This will help prepare your body and mind to restore themselves before the rest of your daily activities.
I hope this helps. Leave a comment below if you’d like more information, or just tell me what your experiences with candle gazing are in the comments! I love hearing from you!
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