Are you feel stressed, stuck in a rut, and in need of a mood lift and mind boost?

Trataka, or "candle gazing," is one of the six shat kriyas (also called shatkarmas)—cleansing practices that originate in India. It’s a simple practice in which you gaze at the flame of a candle. It’s known to have powerful benefits, ranging from the physical to the emotional and spiritual; and it’s a great practice to try when you’re craving more focus and clarity in your life.

Read on to discover the benefits of trataka, and how to get to started.

Are There Any Reasons to Avoid Trataka?

Although very simple, candle gazing can be quite intense, and it does have some contra-indications which you should be aware of before you try it.

  • People who suffer from migraines should seek medical advice, or practice trataka under the guidance of an experienced teacher.
  • Anyone who has recently had eye surgery should avoid this practice; and if you’ve had eye surgery in the past, talk to your physician to get the all clear.
  • If you have certain forms of epilepsy, trataka could trigger seizures. Only you and your doctor can decide whether this practice is suitable for you.

What are the benefits of trataka?

People around the world have reported numerous benefits from practicing this technique. It’s worth noting that the benefits tend to be cumulative, so although you could well experience a change in your state of mind and body after just one session, deeper changes come with regular, consistent practice.

Read: How Yoga Can Help Soothe Your Stress and Anxiety

Those reported benefits of trataka include:

  • Improved cognition — including concentration and memory
  • Supports eye health and healing
  • Overall cleansing and purifying — you feel clearer, and gain clarity
  • A sense of being invigorated and energized
  • Relief from stress, anxiety, and rushing thoughts
  • Improved sleep — anecdotal evidence suggests that trataka may help with insomnia

For yoga and meditation practitioners, this technique also offers an effective way to prepare the mind and body for deeper meditation practice.

It brings you into the present moment, makes you feel calm, and helps to minimize distractions as you have a clear point of focus.

How to practice trataka

Start by choosing a suitable meditation posture. I’d recommend a comfortable cross-legged or kneeling posture on the floor, with a cushion, block or bolster to elevate the hips.

If sitting on the floor doesn’t work for you, use a chair instead. Make sure that both of your feet can rest comfortably on the ground, and the edge of the chair just touches the back of your knees.

Read: Get Comfortable During Meditation With These Popular Postures and Modifications

Then you can put your candle in place. It needs to be about two feet in front of you, at eye level.

The room must be as dark as possible, so trataka is best practiced in the evening or very early morning. You can practice in the day time if you can block out light from the room with heavy curtains or shutters.

When you’re ready…

  1. Light the candle, then settle into your chosen posture and rest the hands either on the legs, or the abdomen — whichever feels more calming for you in this moment.

  2. Close the eyes, and take ten deep breaths through the nose. Aim to make the exhale twice as long as the inhale; for example, inhaling for a count of three, and exhaling for a count of six. Allow yourself to slow down and be in this moment.

  3. Open the eyes and immediately fix your gaze on the candle flame. Focus on the point right at the tip of the wick, where the flame is strongest and brightest.

  4. Do not blink—the eyes remain open for as long as possible. Your eyes may start to water and you’ll want to blink, but hold the focus until you can’t any longer.

  5. When you can’t keep the eyes open anymore, relax all of those muscles that have worked to keep them focused, and allow the eyes to close. Hold the image of the candle flame in your mind; it’s as if that image is being projected in between the eyebrows.

  6. When the image has faded, you’ve completed one round of trataka.

To begin with one round might be enough. But as you continue with the practice, you can build up to three or four rounds in succession to deepen the experience.

Read: The Lost Art of Concentration

Afterward, allow yourself to return to the room gently. Turn on dim lights or allow soft natural light to filter in. It might feel helpful to jot a few notes about your practice in a journal, or you might continue into another form of meditation practice.

Or simply take a few deep, releasing breaths, and get on with your day. You might notice a feeling of lightness in your mind, and even in your body; and hopefully you’ll feel clearer and calmer.

During These Times of Stress and Uncertainty Your Chakras May Be Blocked.

To help you bring attention to your chakras and to identify which of your chakras are causing you issues, we created the following quiz.

Try not to stress over every question, but simply answer based off your intuition. After all, you know yourself better than anyone else.