Friday, March 18, 2011


The Yoga Sutras, written around the 2nd century by Patanjali, is an attempt to define and standardize Classical Yoga. It is composed of 196 sutras (sutra = thread) that read as verses and forms the structural framework of the yoga practice. The Yoga Sutra is an eight-limbed (Astanga) path that leads one to completeness; a path leads to the connectivity to the divine.

In the third chapter of the Yoga Sutras, Patanjali writes about Supernatural Abilities and Gifts (Vibhuti Pada). The verses begin with the importance of meditation as a particular limb that brings one to the connection to the divine:

III, 1
the confining
of thought
to one point.

III, 2
depends upon this
foundation for directing thoughts
into a continuous flow
of awareness.

To practice this method of meditation, I want to introduce the practice of Candle Gazing. I have taught this simple method of meditation in several yoga classes and my students have been amazed at the results they received. One mentioned, "I let go of some old emotional baggage...the candle triggered something and I started to let go of old issues." Candle Gazing (Trataka) is an ancient Indian practice that is said to help focus the mind, improve concentration, and is very calming.

Here's how it is done:
Light a candle and place it on a low table. Sit on the floor in a comfortable meditation posture (like Half Lotus or Easy Pose). The candle flame should be at eye-level while you're seated. If you are new to this practice, you will start your candle gazing at 30 seconds per round. As you grow more accustomed to the practice, you can extend the time you gaze at the flame.

To begin, stare at the candle flame for 30 seconds without blinking. (Although you cannot look at a clock, just get a sense of how long 30 seconds is.) You may have the urge to blink or your focus may become blurred during the exercise. Whatever happens, keep your attention on the flame. After 30 seconds, close your eyes for an additional 30 seconds. An after-image of the flame may still be present in your mind's eye. Focus on this "internal flame." After about 30 seconds, repeat the candle gazing. Do this for at least 3 rounds. At the end of your last round, place your cupped palms over your eyes and let the eyes relax in this new darkness. This is called palming.

This exercise can be done with any inanimate object and be done just about anywhere. (Try doing it at your desk and stare at the tip of a pencil.) The idea is to focus your vision and your mind. The result is a sense of calm and relaxation. Try it when you're under stress. Better yet, include it in your regular morning daily routine to start your day. You may find that you have a sense of calm throughout the entire day. Try it for a week and let us know how you did.


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