Hatha Yoga Pradipika is a 15th century classic manual on Hatha Yoga which details various purifications, postures, breath control, chakras and nadis among other topics. We find a set of six processes called Shat Kriyas which form the preliminary purification meant to remove gross impurities and prepare the body for Panayam. Tratak is one of these Shat Kriyas which involves concentration on a single point or a candle flame.
One has to sit comfortably in gyan or chin mudra with the spine erect. Remove any spectacles or contact lenses. At an arm’s length distance, place an object of focus, which can be either a candle, an image or a point (an object, black dot) at the level of the chest. Let the flame be still. Close the eyes briefly and remember one’s mantra. Then open the eyes and look at the flame (or the point) for about 15 seconds, without straining. The attention should be gentle. Observe all the thoughts that are coming into your mind, like waves in the ocean, and be still, smiling gently.
Slowly close your eyes. You may notice the image of the candle appears in your mind. Do not try to hold on to it, but simply be a witness. Repeat this three times and gradually build on this practice. Over a few months, you will be able to hold your attention for about a minute followed by about four minutes of meditation. Do not extend the duration beyond this time. If you feel some strain, place your palms gently over your eyes to ease it. The process described here is called Bahiranga Tratak (external gazing). The other form of Tratak is called Antaranga Tratak (internal gazing).
The practice of Tratak brings the mind to a state of attention, awareness and focus. It builds intuition and clairvoyance as one stimulates the pineal gland focussing on the region of the “third eye” (eyebrow center) or the Ajna Chakra. Tratak is also purifying for the eyes and improves vision and memory. It is also very good for students as it helps in building concentration. It also strengthens eye muscles and builds willpower. Tratak also helps with depression, anxiety and insomnia. It balances the nervous system and is also known to help people suffering from ‘bed wetting’. It promotes overall vitality and health.
Caution: Never do this exercise forcefully. It is also not suitable for people with psychic problems or those who have a tendency towards Schizophrenia or hallucinations.