Yoga, Ayurveda and acro yoga in Budapest - classes, philosophy also in English

2010. augusztus 18., szerda

Trataka, the transition between physical and mental yoga

During yesterday's class we did a lot of hip openers. I blogged about this previously, that the essence of hatha yoga postures is to prepare you for stable sitting. The ultimate aim of yoga is not the achievement of perfect health or flexibility. These are all the positive side effects on the road, but this is not the main emphasis. The goal is to master the postures suitable for meditation. Hence only through meditation can the final aim be attained: the unio mystica, the uniting, the union between the embodied soul, the Jivatman and the cosmic or Supreme Self, the Paramatman.

To put it simply, somewhere all of us feel, moreover it sometimes even fuels our ego, that we are that divine sparkle. The Christians were created to the image of God, but even in hinduism or other politeist religions you may find a lot of similarity between gods and humans. I noted all this only to make more clear that we all have this archetypal pattern, that there is a certain higher power to which we are related by organic and sacred links.Yoga only taps upon this basic truths by setting  "union" as its goal . 

Moreover, in Christianity, there is the thought of being dropped out of paradise, from the divine state, and the constant endeavor to get back there, to regain our divine quality. Voila, again union and yoga. 

But let's come back after this short sidetrack to practical life. The opening of the hip and making it more flexible through specific exercises will lead you to learn the classical sitting poses required for meditation. No, there is no such thing as impossible, anyone can sit in one of these poses, Vajrasana, Sukhasana, Padmasana, Ardha Padmasana, it is only a matter of practice. However, these poses provide the greatest challenge. When as short a period as two seconds is killing you in ardha padmasana, half lotus, then all hope and enthusiasm will quickly vanish. We get quickly demoralized, although perseverance and discipline will bear their fruits. On top of that these poses are the most risky too, since impatient forcing might easily result in knee injury with a  long recovery. So if you like, learning these postures in itself is a spiritual fight with our self.

Well, I tried to invite my students to this rough path. We made a nice progress, but meanwhile I realized that we would run out of time and it was time for me to select the remaining poses from what I had previously conceived. I wanted my people to try to sit at least a couple of minutes in ardha padmasana at the end of the class. Originally I planned to do it with an easy pranayama, but the thrill of the moment changed my plans. The night has already fallen, and I noticed some tea light candles, so I lit a few of them. Then we finished our last forward bend, paschimottanasana with props, and the blocks somehow inspired me to place the candles on top of them in front of the students practising now ardha padmasana, and to do some Trataka. 

Trataka means steady gazing, when one is focusing all his attention and concentration on a single object. This can be many things like picture of a saint, OM sign, some beloved object, a flower etc., but the easiest is the fixation of a candlelight. The point is not to blink and to keep watching the top or the middle part of the flame. This exercise wonderfully develops your concentration skills, trains the weak eyes, so improves eyesight, and it promotes our mental cleansing. The Gherand Samhita mentions this technique among the Shatkarmas, the physical cleansing techniques, which might seem inappropriate since, at first sight, trataka has not much to do with the physical body. It effects more the mind, but to a great extent. Doing trataka before going to bed brings peace and calmness, so it is good for insomnia. On the contrary, if you have strange thoughts occurring through the practice, that is also the impact of trataka, since trataka helps to shed light (even if only candlelight) on our mental problems so that we could get rid of them. Its most important benefit is, that it naturally induces a meditative state in the mind, because the increased concentration brings about this one pointed attention, so it can lead directly to meditation. Therefore trataka is the connecting bridge between physical and mental yoga, the link between the two realms. 

In India, some people use it to develop psychic skills (telepathy, clairvoyance and others) but this is not supported by the yoga tradition, for these skills represent a dead end on the spiritual path.
However it is interesting to note, that I found it really strange to have this sudden idea of doing trataka in my class. After class, at the reception I met another teacher, I have never seen her before and we started chatting. I asked her what sort of class she just gave. She replied, "Vipassana meditation".

Oupsss....telepathy might be working? Be aware, trataka is much more powerful than you would believe so. 

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