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Enhancing Vision With Trataka Kriya And Ayurvedic Herbs

Vision is the process of image formation. Healthy vision depends on the health of each organ involved in the process, i.e. the eye, the concerned part of the brain, and the nerves connecting the eye and the brain. Like any other process of the body, vision can be defected too, due to a structural or functional abnormality in the body. This article covers some aspects of vision, such as its mechanism, its defects and their correction, and corrective measures for defective vision based on Yoga and Ayurveda.
Yoga Tips For Vision Enhancement

Introduction

Facilitated by the eye, vision is nature’s gift to man. The eye is an intricate structure located close to the brain. This gives the eye not only a place in the ‘special senses’ but also gives it importance in yoga physiology because of its close proximity to important chakras located in the head. Yogis have greatly emphasized the role of normal and healthy vision in activation of psychic vision and meditation. They say that if the physical body is not free of impurities, especially the sense organs, then these impurities shall keep hindering the path of meditation. Therefore cleansing practices have been given great importance in the ancient yoga manuals. Trataka is one of those cleansing practices.

The Mechanism of Vision in Humans

The eye is a ball divided into anterior and posterior half by the eye lens, which is held in place by the ciliary muscle. The anterior half is covered by a hemispherical muscular membrane, called the cornea, which is refractive and is responsible for the primary convergence of incident light onto the eye lens. The posterior half is filled with a jelly that maintains pressure inside the eyeball, with a screen lying as the posterior end where images are formed. This screen is called the retina. Light reflected from all objects falls at the eye lens via the cornea and it is converged to form an image on the retina. Vision is considered healthy/ normal when all images are formed on the retina regardless of the distance of the object from the eye lens.

Vision Defects And Correction Methods

As far as the physical vision is concerned, it can get deviated from its healthy state, making the person unable to see either far object clearly, or near object clearly, or the object images can vertically be distorted. These conditions are together called vision defects. They are corrected using optical lenses.

  • Myopia: also known as short-sightedness, this defect causes the person to face difficulty seeing far objects clearly. The farthest range of clear vision of a normal eye is considered to be infinity; but for a myopic eye this range is much less than infinity. The lens of a myopic eye forms an image in front of the retina. Myopia is corrected using concave lenses, with a focal length such that the image is formed exactly on the retina.
  • Hypermetropia: also known as far-sightedness, this defect causes the person to face difficulty seeing near objects clearly. The nearest range of clear vision in a normal eye is usually 25 centimeters, also known as the least distance of distinct vision, but for a hypermetropic eye, this distance increases more than the normal value. The lens of a hypermetropic eye forms an image behind the retina. Hypermetropia is corrected using convex lenses, with a focal length such that the image is formed exactly on the retina.
  • Presbyopia: this is an age-related defect where the eye muscles lose their elasticity and functionality. Thus the elderly see near some objects blurred. A combination of myopia and hypermetropia can also affect the elderly where combine lenses are used whose upper half is concave and lower half is convex.
  • Other Defects: other defects such as blurred vision, distorted vision & corneal defects are also corrected using suitable lenses or surgery.

Introduction to Trataka

‘Trataka’ means a constant gaze. Trataka is an ancient practice the mention of which is found in various forms of yoga and tantra. Although these days we use these practices for their therapeutic effects, their effects are beyond the physical ones. It is a practice that has effects deeper than the material body. On the physical level, it is used as a cleansing practice for the eyes, and on the deeper levels it develops concentration and has other intellectual, psychic and spiritual effects.

This extract (2.32) from the Hatha Yoga Pradipika of Swatmarama simply tells the essential technique of Trataka:

“निरीक्षेत् निश्चलादृशा सूक्ष्मलक्ष्यं समाहितः।अश्रुसम्पातपर्यन्तम् आचार्यैः त्राटकं स्मृतम्।।”

“With a steady sight, look at a point object. Do so until tears appear. This is simply called Trataka as defined by the experts.”

Here, a point object is not a particle-sized or a pin-point sized object. Interestingly, Optics too considers the Sun, the Moon, a dot or a flame as point objects. The same criterion applied for the selection of the Trataka object.

Preparation

  • Choose a room that has the minimum furnishings and has efficient curtains or other ways of light blocking. Close the door and the windows and turn off all lights.
  • The room shouldn’t have air currents circulating in it even with closed doors and windows.
  • Find a table/ stand that is almost as long as your thorax, you will place your Trataka object on this table/ stand.
  • You will need a diya or a candle as the Trataka object. The wick shouldn’t be too long.
  • Place the diya/ candle on the chosen table.
  • Spread a comfortable mat in front of the table/ stand.
  • There shouldn’t be too many disturbances from household noise or someone knocking your door in between the practice.

Technique

  • Sit on the mat in any easy seated pose.
  • Light the diya/ candle.
  • Keep the head and the spine straight yet relaxed.
  • The diya/ candle should be placed at a distance not too away from your least distance of distinct vision (which is 25 cm for most individuals).
  • Close your eyes. Relax the facial muscles, and then relax the whole body.
  • Observe the bodily sensations and movements. Ease, if any part is strained such that you won’t be able to tolerate it for the upcoming few minutes.
  • Now the body shall not move throughout the practice.
  • Open the eyes and fix them on the tip of the flame.
  • Do not blink, do not strain either.
  • Within some time whole awareness shall collect at the eyes and the body will feel numb.
  • Try not to think of other things or just anything.
  • When tears appear, gently close your eyes.
  • Watch the image of the flame inside your head with closed eyes.
  • Try to keep this image steady even though it will try to move.
  • The image shall fade. When this happens, open the eyes again, and repeat the practice.
  • Do so thrice or four times in one session.
  • At the end of the last round, you can choose to keep sitting, get up or lie down.
  • If you wish to get up: Before opening the eyes, rub both palms together vigorously until warmth is produced in them, and place them on the eyes. Open the eyes while they’re still covered by the palms.
  • Blow the flame off to prevent any accident.

Benefits

Trataka has numerous benefits. The physical benefits start appearing with the first session itself, and the subtler ones shall be felt by the individual as they explore the deeper aspects of the practice. As implied from this extract (2.33) from the Hatha Yoga Pradipika of Swatmarama:

“मोचनं नेत्ररोगाणां तन्द्रादीनां कपाटकम्।यत्नतस्त्राटकं गोप्यं यथा हाटकपेटकम्।। “

“Trataka eases and ceases all eye disorders, and it prevents laziness, lethargy, inactivity, drowsiness, dizziness and hence improves focus. (It has more benefits that are beyond physical body) and therefore, it should be kept secret and protected as someone would protect their jewels”.

The beauty of the ancient texts lies within the Sanskrit couplets in them, where there are several hidden and implied meanings that are not understood by just reading the literal meanings of the terms. In the above stated extract too, a major part has been impliedly conveyed which we’ll try to expand. Effects of Trataka practice are listed below in order of their appearance with gradual practice:

  • Trataka clears vision instantly.
  • It activates the lachrymal secretion which could have been dormant or following another course, causing congestion.
  • Trataka hence eases congestion and treats dry eyes.
  • It eases tension in the sensory and motor nerves, and muscles of the eye.
  • It balances the nervous equilibrium between the two cerebral hemispheres.
  • It strengthens memory and improves concentration.
  • It activates energy in the central chakra of the skull.
  • It eases mental stress and tension and clears thoughts that trigger stress and tension.
  • It makes the individual achieve thoughtlessness.
  • It restores healthy vision.
  • It activates supernatural vision.
  • It prepares the individual for progressing to deeper stages of yoga.

Precautions And Contraindications

The yogic techniques prescribed for cleansing and strengthening of the orifices of the body should not be performed by just consulting a book or any instructions that have not been communicated personally, because the non-personal instruction can never convey the right technique as required and suitable for the individual’s condition and limitation. The following care should be considered if one wishes to get initiated in Trataka:

  • Individuals who wear prescription eyeglasses or lenses shall remove their glasses or lenses before commencing the practice, if the Trataka object lies within their range of least distance of distinct vision.
  • Alternative techniques (discussed in the next section) may be prescribed by the therapist after diagnosing the individual’s requirements. The Trataka object shall be chosen as guided by the therapist.
  • Individuals with severe conditions such as glaucoma shall not begin any practice on their own.
  • No individual shall choose the daytime Sun as the Trataka object.
  • Individuals who have had seizures and similar nervous conditions can practice Trataka, but the Trataka object shall be decided by the therapist.
  • Time of practice shall be chosen as per the individual’s condition of health (or disease).
  • The individual shall not strain the eyes in order to focus on the Trataka object since strain shall compromise the benefits of the practice and may even harm vision.
  • The individual shall develop the ability to gaze constantly over time. They shall not force their eyes open in the initial days of practice.

Alternative Techniques

The chosen Trataka object, time and duration of practice, purpose of practice, the sequence of practices and the individual’s condition makes Trataka a versatile practice that can be done by many different techniques.

  • Black Dot : Trataka object can be a black dot placed on a wall or a screen. The background should provide sharp contrast to the dot. It should ideally be done in natural daylight rather than in electrically lit rooms.
  • Full Moon : The full Moon is a great choice for a Trataka object since it has all the positive and balancing qualities that a Trataka object should have. Epileptics, however, shall never choose the Moon as their Trataka object.
  • Sun : The deep red rising and setting Sun can be used as a Trataka object, but care should be taken to do so within a short window of time.

Ayurvedic Herbs For Healthy Vision

Vision depends on the ayurvedic and genetic constitution of the individual. Extra care should be taken if one’s parents or grandparents have had defective vision. Some ayurvedic herbs can restore ayurvedic balance and thus prevent as well as correct defective vision to some extent.

  • Amla (Phyllanthus emblica) : Known as Indian gooseberry worldwide and as amla throughout India, this fruit is a small packet of enormous nutrition. It is extremely good for preventing degenerative vision defects. It can be consumed fresh, in salsas, chutneys, as juice, candied or pickled, and also as a powder when dried.
  • Bilberry (Vaccinium myrtillus) : This look-alike of American blueberry is also a kind of blueberry, but it is grown and used for its medicinal properties. Its powder is extensively used in correcting defective vision and poor night vision.
  • Triphala : This ayurvedic combination of Amalaki (Phyllanthus emblica), Bibhitaki (Terminalia bellirica) and Haritaki (Terminalia chebula) is a magical formulation that restores all ayurvedic imbalances in the body. It is especially recommended for correcting vision defects. It is a powder easily available at local herb stores.

Conclusion

Vision defects are partially contributed to by faulty lifestyle but the major factor is still the individual’s ayurvedic body constitution and their genetic makeup. Therefore supplementing nutrition with ayurvedic herbs is a great way to rule out nutritional deficiencies causing poor eye health. Trataka can be performed after receiving due guidance and even demonstration by a competent yoga therapist because seeking guidance shall eliminate chances of complications that may arise if the individual has some conditions that could interfere with the beneficial effects of a normal Trataka practice. Hence defective vision can be restored to healthier states with the help of Yoga and Ayurveda.
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Best Ayurvedic Doctor in Mohali - Dr. Vikram Chauhan

Dr. Vikram Chauhan

MD (AYURVEDA)

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