By Shameem Akhtar
|Shameem Akthar has trained as yoga Acharya with the Sivananda Yoga Vedanta Centre, Kerala, and is a master-trainer in neuro-linguistic psychology. |
The practice of trataka helped Shameem Akhtar gain the mental strength required to do difficult poses
When I first started learning yoga, I was lucky to have Pushpa Bhandari, a teacher who gave me everything I needed: a gentle energy-releasing sequence, jal neti, meditation as well as trataka. Not all her students got all of these, so that way I was very fortunate. But somehow I guess I was also the one most in need of inner healing since all is not usually given to a student who had just about stumbled into yoga. What struck me most forcefully about trataka was that it would centre me immediately and prepare me for meditation. I would complain to my teacher that I was not able to meditate as completely as I did at her little yoga place. She would say it was because of trataka. This connected me forever to the idea of how just staring at a dot (we used to stick a red bindi for this) could contain the chatter of that relentless mind. As I stared, only one eye would begin to water, my left eye. Interestingly, my physical problems too were largely left-centric! Be it dental cavity, acne, knee problem or lower power of the eye. It was amazing, because in yoga the idea of misalignment as cause of disease and the search for balance and harmony as the panacea is the core.
Today, trataka is possibly the most neglected part of yoga, as asanas dominate the practice. However, trataka is an integral part of yoga training. It is part of the cleansing preparations that must be done to clear the mind of mental tensions and pent-up emotions. Unless they get released, a diseased state will continue, especially if you are in a class where asanas are treated just as physical exercise and not as part of your spiritual or emotional culturing. Trataka also helps you understand the idea of drishti or focus in a pose. Most difficult poses, which people think involve physical stamina, actually involve a poised mind. Unless the mind focuses, it will not achieve the pose, simply because advanced poses knock on several biological fear centres. To reach a pose, vaulting over these obstacles, requires tremendous focus and courage. Trataka prepares you for that. Trataka also helps keep the eyes younger and the vision healthy. But trataka has many side-effects, if done without guidance. Therefore it is best to learn it from an expert.
Trataka (Yogic eye focus)
Sit in a meditative posture. Place a black dot or a candle flame (the latter should be avoided by those with epilepsy). You may also choose an object of meditation, like an image or object or yantra. Whatever the shape of the entire object, the actual focus point should be narrowed to a relevant part of it. For instance, if looking at a yantra, choose the central object or the geometric shape of the yantra, instead of focussing on the entire diagram. Once chosen, practice on the same object every time.
Keep the chosen object at eye level. Focus on this for a few seconds or till tears appear in either or both eyes. Blink eyes. Rest eyes by palming the eyes (rubbing hands together and covering closed eyelids). Repeat again. Initially do it for a short while. Increase time as comfort level improves with the practice.
Avoid: in case of serious eye ailments.
Benefits: Aids memory. Helps cure mental tensions and psychosomatic problems.
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