Have you found yourself at the end of a long day, exhausted but not really sure where the day has disappeared to?
When we are moving rapidly from task to task, there is a tendency to get lost; in seeking the next moment or dwelling on a previous moment, we miss the present moment.
The result is a day lived in transience, never really being here – or anywhere. It is a series of distracted moments in an uninhabited body.
We all know that changing the way we think can affect how we behave. This relationship flows both ways; when we change our posture, the way we breathe, the way we interact with our surroundings, we can influence our thoughts.
In the practice of Yoga, Vinyasa means ‘to place in a special way, with a special breath’.
There is a sense of reverence for settling into each moment with full intention, of what you are doing and how you are doing it.
Yoga is a lifestyle, not just a set of shapes we make with our bodies on the mat. Vinyasa, therefore, also translates to our life off the mat – from the way we rise out of bed, to the way we pour hot water for our tea, fold our clothes or brush our teeth before bed.
It is to be intentional in giving attention to the present moment.
So how do we find this focus?
Trāṭaka is a practice of finding drishti, intent or focus, by holding a steady gaze on an object like a candle flame. There is a cultivation of presence, through the concentration of the physical gaze, but also of a sense of turning inwards in the mind. It is a kind of open-eyed meditation.
As the flame flickers, so does its reflection in our eyes, and the thoughts in our minds. Allow them. Acknowledge them. And stay, observing with curiosity, attentiveness, compassion.
In the steadiness of the gaze, we have the chance to see what arises in the mind. More importantly, we make space to observe our reactions to these thoughts – space without judgment or elaboration into habits and stories. Space to simply be present.
I’ve found this a soothing practise especially after a busy or fragmented day. Try it – and let me know how you go!
Trāṭaka | A 5-minute practise
Ground | Balance | Invigorate
This is a beautiful way to start an early morning or settle yourself before bed. It’s also a grounding way to check in with yourself any time of day. Whenever you practice, it is a powerful ritual to soothe and rebalance the nervous system, calm the mind, and settle your attention to the present.
The traditional practice is for up to 20 minutes, until the eyes start watering. The tears are important in cleansing away impurities in the eyes. The Hatha Yoga Pradipika elevates Trāṭaka as a practice that enhances connection to Ajna (third eye) chakra and washes away fatigue.
Please note that a candle flame may not be appropriate for those with epilepsy, astigmatism, cataracts, or other forms of eye strain. A still natural object, like a seashell or stone, may be a suitable alternative.
What You Need:
- Candle | pick your favourite, or a tea light candle will do the trick!
- Comfortable, quiet, preferable darkened space
- Phone on Do Not Disturb
- Timer (optional)
- Find a comfortable seat. Make sure your spine is long and spacious.
- Set the candle about arm’s length away from you. You can set your timer, or indulge in a short session without worrying about the clock.
- Close down your eyes, and take 2-3 slow breathes, experiencing each inhalation as it travels through your body, and allowing full exhales to clear your lungs.
- Open the eyes slowly, and rest your drishti on the centre of the flame, close the wick of the candle. Let your gaze be soft, your eyes alert, and without blinking for as long as possible.
- Invite intention into the space between your eyes – Ajna (third eye) chakra, and the centre for our cognitive mind. You might imagine a soft gaze emanating out from this space.
- Thoughts will come – it’s what our mind does. Just as we don’t judge the shape of the flame, simply allow the thoughts to flicker into your mind, be aware they have arrived, and then let them pass by softly.
- If your eyes start to water, or you no longer sustain the gaze – lightly blink your eyes, and gently clean away any tears with a tissue. When you’re ready to close the eyes, focus on the afterimage of the flame. Allow it to move, to shift, and finally, to fade.
- You can follow this with a few deep breaths, pranayama, or meditation. Simply savour in the power of your moments, truly in experience.