Setting Intentions with Candle Gazing or Trataka
Candle gazing helps you set intentions, benefits your vision, cognitive and memory function, yoga and meditation practices, and more.
Candle gazing, also known as "trataka"in the yoga traditions, is a centuries-old yogic meditation that involves staring at a candle flame. The word trataka in Sanskrit means “to gaze,” and the practice is believed to bring energy to one’s third-eye (sixth) chakra. The benefits of candle gazing include improved vision, memory, and concentration. Ritual-like, the practice of Trataka traditionally involves sitting in a darkened room and staring at the candle flame for several minutes, breathing deeply, without blinking.
Hatha Yoga defines trataka as “looking intently with an unwavering gaze at a small point until tears are shed, and in Eastern philosophy, it is known that your eyes and breathing patterns can also directly influence both your mental and emotional state. Because vision is so tightly connected to the mind, (80% of all sensory data we process comes through our vision), practicing trataka has a direct impact on your mind and mental state – as stillness of the eyes can bring stillness to the mind, helping to instill a sense of calm.
Therapeutic Benefits of Candle Gazing
With scientific interest in yoga, meditation, and other ancient relaxation practices, a number of studies have been conducted in the last decade on the benefits of Trataka and its effects on the body and mind.These studies found that people who practice Trataka meditation show that it helps balance the nervous system and can be effective in relieving tension, anxiety, depression, and insomnia. Studies point to decreased blood pressure, and a decrease in pulse rate, both indicators of decreased stress. Other research found that elderly women who did Trataka improved cognitive performance, as well as short-term memory, working memory, and selective and focused attention.
As we age, it’s natural for our bodies to begin to break down. For instance, eye health deteriorates. A trataka practice can correct errors of refraction and strengthen the ability of the eye to adjust better to distances. It can also strengthen the muscles around the eyes.
"The eyes are the windows of the soul." Spiritual Benefits of Candle Gazing
The spiritual benefits of a candle gazing practice are about bringing harmony and inner peace into your life. Trataka helps you develop focus and improves clarity, which is the best way to manifest your wishes. It also develops willpower and concentration.
Because candle gazing encourages you to focus on just the flame in front of you (preferably in a dark room), your concentration has nowhere else to go. When practiced regularly, you can re-train your brain to be more present, and improved concentration and focus carry over into your spiritual practices.
Through trataka, all the attention and power of the mind is channeled in one continuous stream. In many lineages of Yoga, it is regarded as a highly effective concentration exercise. The ancient Yoga manuals claim that “Trataka destroys the eye diseases and removes sloth, etc. It should be kept secret very carefully, like a box of gold.” (Hatha Yoga Pradipika 2:31)
How to Practice Candle Gazing
Candle gazing is most beneficial in a dark, quiet room where you won’t be disturbed. Follow these steps for your practice:
- Sit comfortably on the floor on a yoga mat or blanket, upright, with legs crossed.
- Set a timer for however long you want your session to be. To begin with, it’s best to go for 2-3 minutes, and gradually work your way up to 10-15 minutes of practice over time.
- Position the candle at least three feet away at eye level, so the candle is elevated off the ground. Candles should be non-toxic and odorless when burning.
- Fix your gaze on the flame and allow your expression to soften.
- Try to keep your eyes open and only blink when it’s absolutely necessary. Be careful here though; blinking is a protective mechanism, and it’s important not to over-strain your eyes.
- Observe any thoughts as they come and go, trying not to get attached to them.
- Focus on the floor or the base of the candle for the first 30 seconds.
- Then, focus intensely on the flame itself for 1-2 minutes. Avoid blinking if possible.
- Next, close your eyes and visualize the flame for as long as is comfortable.
- Continue doing this until your timer goes off, at which point you can bring yourself back to the present moment and take in your surroundings.
- When you’re ready, blow out the candle and take a minute to think about how you feel.
If you suffer from headaches or migraines, or seizures, you should avoid candle gazing altogether as it may aggravate head pain.
Selecting a Candle
Any type of candle can be used for this form of meditation, although there are a few things worth bearing in mind before you start your session. The main consideration is to make sure to use a non-toxic candle. Most candles on the market today are full of phthalates and toxic ingredients that emit toxins in the home. (Our Intention Candles are made with only clean, sustainable ingredients.) Some candles will give off a bright light, while others will emit a dim light; this choice comes down to individual preference.