Trataka

Names

Trataka, Tratak, Fixed Gazing, Fixed Gazing meditation, Blinkless Gazing, Yogic Gazing

Tratak is a well-known Kriya or karma of the six karmas of yoga, the ‘Shatkarma’ and it also is a practice of meditation.

There are many different practices explained in different texts but they are all very similar. You can find the practice of Tratak with a betel leaf, a paper, a candle, a needle, darkness, open sky, a photograph, a deity, a crystal, a stone, a flower, the moon, a star, a painting, shadow, nature, a tree, ocean waves, a flag, a bird etc.

How to perform Trataka

The main practice of Trataka is to gaze. It doesn’t matter which object you use for this but you should focus on it and gaze at it without blinking. You can even close your eyes and focus within with closed eyes.


Choose any object that is currently available to you. If you are in nature, choose a tree, a stone, a flower or anything similar. If you are out in the night, do Trataka with the moon or the stars. If you are inside your home, just use anything that you see and can focus on.
The most common and suggested one is the practice with a lit candle.


Light a candle in a dark room and place it about 75 to 90 centimeters away from you at the level of your eyes. Focus on the flame and continuously stare at it without blinking until tears start running down your cheeks. Then close your eyes but keep gazing at the same point from behind your eyelids for 15 to 20 seconds. After that relax your eye muscles.
Place your palms over your eyes without any pressure on the eyeballs. Gently move your palms in circles. Take a towel or tissue to wipe your eyes.


After that you can continue the practice. You can do this exercise for 12 to 15 minutes.

For inner Trataka practice, close your eyes and start with gazing on your third eye between your eyebrows. Further you focus on your breath and then you focus on your mind and thoughts and just pick one thought or picture and focus on that. For example think of your loved one. Gaze on it inside of you and then narrow your circle of vision and point your focus more specifically at one point in the picture. Continue the practice until you can forget your surroundings completely. That is the stage of deep meditation. This is called Trataka meditation, also known as Dharana or concentration.

Benefits of Trataka

Trataka is very obviously a very great exercise for the eyes. It moves the eye muscles which are in the usual way of looking often only staring without moving. It can help people who suffer from glaucoma, conjunctivitis, eye herpes, keratoconus, macular degeneration, ocular hypertension and sometimes even for retinitis pigmentosa and Stargardt disease. Usual and common problems like hypermetropia (longsightedness) or myopia (nearsightedness) and astigmatism can be relieved. Peripheral vision problems, presbyopia and diplopia can all get help through the practice of Trataka.


If you suffer from frequent headaches, you can also get relief by regular practice of Trataka.
Apart from physical benefits for your eyes, there are many benefits of Trataka on your mind. You increase your concentration in every day’s life by concentrating regularly for a little while in Trataka. You will be able to focus and concentrate longer and better without getting distracted.


Through this time of concentration in between, you also reduce your stress in daily life. This is good for your mental health, helps you get better sleep and brings your nervous system to peace.

Focus Points

Do not let your thoughts distract your eyes from their focus. Keep concentrated.

Tips and Help

Keep breathing normally and stay relaxed, that helps you concentrate. If you are used to perform Dirgha Pranayama, deep yogic breathing, you can also use this breathing practice.
Keep a tissue or towel next to you for wiping your eyes and blowing your nose.

If you have an eye problem and you want to practice Trataka for that, please consult your doctor and yoga teacher before starting the exercise.

Surya Namaskar – Sun Salutation

Names

Surya Namaskar, Sun Salutation

How to perform Surya Namaskar

Stand straight in Samastithi. Check which of your nostrils is more active by holding your hand in front of your nose. Now bring your arms in front of your chest in Namaste position.
With inhalation bring your arms up over your head. Bend backwards and bring your hips to the front with your body weight on your toes. Keep your knees straight. Look backwards and keep deep breathing.


With exhalation bend forwards while keeping your back and elbows straight. Place your hands next to your feet. Now bring back the leg of your active side back. If your right nostril is more active bring back your right leg. Your left knee should now be directly above the left foot. Bring your pelvis down as much as you can and keep the right leg straight and don’t place it on the ground.


With inhalation bring the left foot back next to the right foot into Chaturanga Asana. Hold the position and keep your body in the air. During that keep arms, back and knees straight.
If your shoulders allow it lean your body weight forward with exhalation. Hold your breath and with an inhalation go into Bhujangasana. For that put down your legs and hips on the floor. Your hands should be beside your chest now. Bring your pelvis down but your upper body up so that your navel doesn´t touch the floor anymore. Look straight up to the ceiling. Open your chest wide and breathe deeply. Make sure that you are not hanging your body weight on your shoulders.


With exhalation you bring your head back into the normal position and look straight. With inhalation twist your head to the right side and look at your left heel. With exhalation bring your head back and repeat the same on the left side.


Now push your body back and go into Adho Mukha Svanasana with inhalation. For that you keep your arms straight and with the strength of your shoulders you bring your hips up into the air. You lower the upper body and push your hands into the floor. Your buttock should be the highest part of your body and point to the ceiling.

With exhalation go back into Chaturanga Asana.


Now bring your right foot into the front between your arms. Your right knee should be directly above the right foot. Bring your pelvis down as much as you can and keep the left leg straight without touching the ground.


With inhalation bring the left foot next to the right foot between your arms and straighten your knees. Bring your upper body close to your legs so that your nose is touching the knees.

Bring your palms together in Namaste position. Straighten your elbows and slowly come up with inhalation and your back straight. Bend backwards as before and come back to Samastithi.


Now you have completed the first round of sun salutation!

Benefits of Surya Namaskar

This is a very beneficial position for your whole body. You may do it to warm up at the beginning of your yoga practice. It is also a great exercise for children as this position strengthen the muscles and gives the body more room to develop the organs and to grow.
Sun salutation also helps to prevent many digestive issues and stomach problems. If you suffer from irritable bowel syndrome, sun salutation may help you as it regulates the movement of the bowels.


A regular practice of this sequence of yoga postures will strengthen your arms, shoulders, chest and abdominal muscles and help you to reduce fat especially on your belly.
It will also keep your whole body flexible.


If you practice this pose regularly it will help you to calm your mind, to improve your focus and concentration. Those effects work against depression, bipolar disorder, insomnia, headache, migraines and stress. It is also good for your memory and nervous system.


This exercise also has a lot of benefits for women. Regular practice of sun salutation helps against irregular menstruation and prevents pain during pregnancy. Sun salutation can also help to make the birth of the child easier.


Also your cardio system will be influenced in a positive way. Your blood will get more oxygen and so helps the body to get rid of toxics.


It is also very good for the coordination between mind and body and therefore recommended for seniors.


When you suffer from diabetes make this pose to reduce the sugar in your blood and to regulate your insulin level.


Your skin will become better, it will shape your muscles and will make you look and feel younger. It’s a wonderful exercise for beauty!


This exercise is a complete workout! Even when you don´t have much time for yoga or a workout, just practice sun salutation in the morning and it will give you a complete workout for your body.


In total a regular practice of Surya Namaskar keeps you happy and healthy!

Focus Points

Keep your feet together and knees straight while standing. Always keep your body weight on your toes. Focus on your body and the muscles you are working on while performing the posture.


Performing sun salutation slowly makes you understand the position and how it works and for sure it is more beneficial than doing it fast.


Make sure that you breathe very regular and perform the position in a steady rhythmus.

Tips and Help

For an easy version you can place the knee of the stretched leg on the floor when you finished the forward bending and you bring one leg back.


You can also lie on the floor after Chaturanga Asana. Lift your buttocks up and come into cobra after that.

If you are suffering from shoulder pain, place your arms next to your chest. Lift your chest, head and your arms and hands from the floor. The rest of the body lies on the floor as a substitute of the full cobra.


Coordinating with the breathing makes it easier to perform the posture.


Advanced yoga practitioners can try to keep the body up in the air during the whole sequence of poses. Only your hands and feet should touch the floor.


And if you want it to be more difficult, just do it more slowly and hold the single yoga poses a longer time.

Shirshasana – Head Stand

Names

Shirshasana, Sirsana, Sirshasana, Head Stand

How to perform Shirshasana

Fold a blanket and place it in front of you. Sit on your toes and place your knees on the floor. Grab your elbows with your hands so that your lower arms touch each other. Place your arms in front of your knees. Now open your arms and interlace your fingers in front of your knees on the blanket so that your hands look like a triangle.


Place the top of your head on the blanket and support the back of your head with your interlaced hands by placing them on the back of your head. Straighten your knees so that you are only on your feet, arms and head. Make sure your back is also straight.


Now slowly shift your body weight to the front, over your head, and walk closer to your body with your toes. When you feel your back is in an angle of 90 degrees to the floor, start lifting your feet with exhalation from the ground and bring them up and straight, in vertical alignment with your body.


When you feel strain or, at the maximum, after three to five minutes, you slowly bring your feet down to the floor and come out of the pose.

Benefits of Shirshasana

The head stand is considered as one of the best yoga poses because of its vast amount of benefits and is, for that reason, sometimes called the ‘King of Yoga Poses’


Through the upside-down position, your blood flows more easily down where now is your head and your brain. This inversion is good for the blood circulation and your heart. The blood is purified and cleansed through its strengthened flow.


Through the easy flow of blood into your head, the whole area is supplied with fresh oxygen which helps your brain to work properly and better. You will realize that you can concentrate better and your memory improved.


A better blood circulation can prevent headaches and migraines. People suffering from insomnia can also get relief by practicing this yoga pose. Even epilepsy is said to be relieved for yoga practitioners who do the head stand.


Your ears, eyes and nose benefit from the circulation as well and many issues can be prevented through inverted yoga postures like Shirshasana.


The scalp is supplied with blood which stimulates the growth of hair and can even prevent hair loss if it was caused by poor circulation.


This yoga exercise stimulates the thyroid gland, the pituitary and the pineal glands and thus improves their functions.


Of course it is an exercise that strengthens your muscles and with all these effects it also makes your immune system stronger and more resistant.


The head stand is also said to help with many sexual problems.

Focus Points

Keep normal breathing while you are in this pose. Try to straighten your legs up so that your body is a straight vertical line.

Tips and Help

Before performing Shirshasana you should already be warm and have done some exercise. Exhaling while lifting your legs will make it easier for you to come up.


If you are new to this exercise, you can first practice performing Ardha Shirshasana and when you have gained balance in this pose move on to the full head stand.

When to avoid Shirshasana

Do not hold this pose for a longer time, even though you feel you are capable of doing so. The pressure on your head and the blood circulating there can have negative effects if you hold the pose too long. Whenever you feel strain, come out of the yoga pose.


If you suffer from headache or a serious eye disease such as glaucoma, you should avoid this pose. High blood pressure patients and people with cardiac problems should also not practice the head stand. If you had neck injuries or hernia or if you currently suffer from back pain, you should always consult your doctor before performing this yoga pose.
Women should avoid Shirshasana during menstruation time and pregnancy.

Mula Bandha – Root Lock

Names

Mula Bandha, Moola Bandha, Root Lock

How to perform Mula Bandha

Mula means root and in this case it is indicating our perineum between the sexual organs and the anus, as well as the PC muscles and the pelvic floor.


To perform the Mula Bandha you can sit in Vajrasana, Siddhasana , Bhadrasana, Guptasana or Gorakshasana. Contract your perineum towards your navel with inhalation.

Close your eyes. Focus and visualize the muscles between your pubic bone and coccyx bone.


The contraction is the same feeling as when you need to go to toilet and you are holding the urine in your body. You also use these muscles when you are forcing yourself to urinate even when you don´t have to.


In the beginning you contract the muscles with inhalation and release them with exhalation. Slowly you can increase the time of practicing the contraction.
Deepen your breath.

Benefits of Mula Bandha


At the perineum is the bottom of our body, the junction and starting place of our nervous system. The three main Nadis or meridians Ida, Pingala and Sushumna also start from the perineum body.

By performing Mula Bandha, you stimulate both, the nervous system and the energy system, at their roots and beginning points.


This stimulation brings you a lot of good effects, one of them being that it calms your mind.

You get emotional and psychological strength and it makes your mind more stable and balanced so that it is easy for you to get rid of insecure feelings and negative emotions. This stability makes you less prone to phobias.


Additionally the pose will help you in controlling anger and to enhance the power of concentration.


It is one of the best exercises to activate the first chakra. That’s why it is good for all kinds of sexual and gynecological problems.

Focus Points

In this exercise you should focus on contracting your muscles.

Tips and Help

If you perform this exercise with the described breathing method it will be easier to concentrate on your muscles. Another help for this is closing your eyes.


In the beginning you can point out those muscles by placing your finger there to make sure you are not working with your anal muscle and the muscle of your sexual organ.

Moola Bandha Asana

Names

Moola Bandha Asana

How to perform Moola Bandha Asana

Sit in Vajrasana and start spreading your knees and go as wide as you can.

Place your hands on the floor in front of you and while leaning your body weight on your hands you move your hands further forward.

You move forward until you are standing like a four-legged animal on your hands and knees. The toes of your feet should be touching each other.


Now bend your elbows and slowly place your lower arms on the floor. Now your hips and shoulders should be on the same height, so that your back is parallel to the floor.

Check once again if your knees can go any further apart and lean forward in the position to get your Moola Bandha.

Benefits of Moola Bandha Asana

Performing this posture automatically makes the Moola Bandha Mudra so that you don’t need to do any further effort.


Of course you already notice that regular practice will bring you much flexibility in your legs.
Additionally this pose strengthens your arms up to the neck, your back, your hamstrings, inner thighs, knees and ankles.


The Moola Bandha Asana also brings sexual energy back into flow.
It is thus a really wholesome exercise for your whole body and mind!

Focus Points

While leaning forward in the posture, take care to keep your head parallel to your trunk so that you get a stretch to your neck, too.

Tips and Help

If you have pain in arms and knees or in ankles and elbows, you can use a towel, a blanket, a small cushion or a folded yoga mat under your knees, ankles or elbows.

Manu Asana – Tree Pose

Names

Manu Asana, Tapasana, Tree pose

How to perform Manu Asana

Check which of your nostrils is active and start with the active side.
If your right side is active, bring your right foot up with inhalation and place it on the inner side of your left thigh. Hold the pose and press your heel into your perinium. This pressure activates your Pingala Nadi.


When you have found your balance, place your hands in front of your chest in the Namaste pose and slowly bring them over your head.


Repeat the same exercise from the other side.

Benefits of Manu Asana

This yoga pose obviously helps you practicing balance. Additionally it stretches the whole body.


This lets you feel more alive and connected with your roots.
children love this pose – just like every balancing pose, as it is fun and exercise in one.

Focus Points

Of course you should try to stand in balance and not fall.


When you are in the tree pose, you should focus on stretching yourself completely. The sole of your foot should be flat on your inner thigh and as high as it can go up.

Tips and Help

If you cannot lift your foot up until the thigh or root chakra yet, you can also place it further down, on your calves. Just don’t place it exactly next to the knee as this can harm the knee joint.


In order to stand still, focus with the eyes on a point that does not move. Imagine you are a tree, growing its roots deep into the earth, stretching its branches towards the sky.

Malasana – Garland Pose

Names

Malasana, Garland Pose, Squat Pose, Shitting Pose

At the base of this posture’s name, there is a big misunderstanding and a confusion of Sanskrit words. The commonly known but unfortunately wrong English term is ‘Garland Pose’.


The idea behind this translation is that ‘Malasana’ comes from the Sanskrit word Maalaa which would correctly be transcribed as ‘Maalaa’ and which indeed would be a garland. Where however in this pose do you see a necklace or garland?

When being asked, some people say it is the pose of receiving a flower garland, a common form of honouring someone in India.


The truth however is that ‘Malasana’ comes from the Sanskrit word Mala which would be transcribed as ‘Mala’ and which would mean excrement or shit. Indeed, the traditional way of going to toilet in India is by squatting on the floor. 

Yoga actually describes that in this posture, the intestines are in the best position to release all waste that is left after digestion. It is thus in reality a Shitting Pose.

माला = Mala (Maalaa) = Garland, Necklace, Rosary

मल = Mala = Excrement, Shit

By comparing the original writing, the Devanagari script, you can clearly see that the mistake happened in the transliteration where the English is lacking a proper writing for the long and short ‘a’.


The conclusion however is that in hundreds of modern English yoga books and popular yoga websites, for example Yoga Journal, Malasana is wrongly translated with ‘Garland Pose’.

How to perform Malasana

Squat with your feet flat on the floor, the feet about the width of your hips apart from each other.

Let your pelvis hang down with all your body weight. Bring your elbows in front of your knees and place your palms together in the pose of Namaste.

Now make effort to bring your trunk in between your legs, look straight to the front and keep on smiling.

Benefits of Malasana

This yoga pose is especially good for pregnant women as a regular practice of this posture alleviates delivery. It helps you to open your hips and in the last days of pregnancy helps to make your baby feel the pull down – it can make the birth happen a bit earlier especially if the child is already late.


Malasana is also beneficial for women who are not pregnant and men as well! It strengthens your calves and ankles, your feet and your toes. It relaxes your lower back and the muscles simply feel the pull of gravity down towards earth.


Malasana – as its real name actually already tells – helps against constipation and brings your bowels again in the right rhythm so that the functions of your metabolism work properly.

Focus Points

While you keep your feet flat, keep your body weight on your toes as much as possible.

Tips and Help

If you get tired in this yoga pose, bring your body weight to the back on the heels for a while before you shift it back to the front. It will feel like swinging your weight in between your toes and heels which will not only help you giving comfort in the pose but also exercise your leg muscles.

When to Avoid Malasana

People with bad knee injuries should avoid this posture.

Maha Mudra

Names

Maha Mudra, Mahamudra

How to perform Maha Mudra

Sit in Dandasana with your spine and legs straight.

Place your left heel on your perineum.

The sole of the left foot should touch your right thigh. Inhale deeply.

With exhalation you bend forward and make all three bandhas or body locks, the Mula Bandha, Uddiyana Bandha and Jalandhara Bandha.

This means you contract your perineum muscles, place your chin on your chest and let the vacuum in your belly pull your navel up and in.

Lean forward to grab your right toes with both hands, hold the air out of your body and stay in the yoga pose.

For coming out of the pose, release the locks and come up with inhalation. Repeat this posture from the other side.

Benefits of Maha Mudra

In yogic scripture it is said to be one of the greatest postures as it includes all the three Bandhas.

This gives control and command over your mental and physical constitution. It has all the benefits of the three different locks combined in this posture.


Your digestion and metabolism with all your internal organs benefit from this yoga pose. Spleen, pancreas, kidney, gall bladder, bladder, prostate gland and your bowels are all stimulated to work properly. This of course helps you if you suffer from diabetes or irritable bowel syndrome.


Women’s menstruation pain and problems with the uterus and the ovaries can be prevented and cured.

If you have problems with your respiratory system like tuberculosis, this pose can help you.
By practicing this exercise you can strengthen your shoulders as well as your lumbar muscles.


The immune system as well as your endocrine system benefit from the exercise and your complete body is provided with energy. By pressing the heel on the perineum you also stimulate the nervous system which will bring benefits for your mental health.


With the combination of the locks the yoga pose provides blood flow and oxygenation to the brain which effects psychically by building up your self-confidence and concentration power.

Focus Points

Take care that the knee of the leg which is lying on the floor is straight.


When you perform this exercise, focus on your breath and on the locks. You should be aware that you should not breathe during the posture.

Don’t force yourself to stay longer in the posture than you can do easily. Never cross your limits!

Tips and Help

Before you practice the Maha Mudra, make sure you have practiced the three Bandhas separately so that you are sure how they feel.


Exhale from the mouth and close your eyes. If you cannot reach to your toes grab your ankle or calves depending on how far you can get.

Kapal Randhra Dhauti

Names

Kapal Randhra Dhauti, Scalp Cleansing

Kapal is the Sanskrit word for head. Randhra means hole. The Kriya thus means the cleansing of the hole of the head.


If you are not aware what this means, just think of the skull of a newborn baby. It is soft and at the top, there is a kind of hole. This is the place meant to be cleaned in this Dhauti.

How to perform Kapal Randhra Dhauti

In Kapal Randhra Dhauti, you rinse the top of your head with water. Lean forward and pour water on your head with one hand while rubbing the top of the head with the other flat hand.


Use water of a pleasant temperature and wash the top of your head. Some people refer to the scriptures’ advice to use cold water for this practice.

One needs to take into consideration however that these scriptures were written in India, a generally hot country where cold water is still not freezing through the influence of the daily sun.

It is thus safe to say that water at a normal temperature is good for use.


In the next step, you massage your temples with your thumbs, both clockwise and anticlockwise.


Additionally and to have more benefit, you can place your middle fingers from both sides to the top of your nose bone, just below your eyebrow. Hold your breath and gently massage your upper nose.


When you have to exhale, stop the massage and exhale with force.

Benefits of Kapal Randhra Dhauti

This technique is very good for calming your mind and brain.

Through the massage you reduce stress and by this can reduce problems of insomnia and even bipolar because you relax your mental situation enourmously.

You clear your thoughts and thus get more and more peace in your complete system.


Problems of headache and migraine are reduced and your nervous system has a chance to calm down, too.

In this way Kapal Randhra Dhauti also helps against depression – it gives you the chance to relax and see things another way! All kinds of stress and its symptoms can disappear with regular practice. Even bipolar disorder can be treated with this relaxation of your mind.


The calming effect is also good for your blood pressure and makes the blood circulate to your head, too. This prevents dizziness and of course the oxygen is beneficial for your brain power, too.


The water opens the pores of the scalp and cleans it.


Practitioners of meditation enjoy doing this technique as it helps you go into meditation easily.

Tips and Help

Also make sure to dry your head after washing will prevent you catching cold. It is recommended to practice this in the morning.

When to avoid Kapal Randhra Dhauti

Take care not to do this cleansing technique when it is cold as you could easily catch a cold.

It is working with the Kapha region of your body and thus the practice could increase the mucus if there is cold air around the person performing it.

Hanumanasana – Monkey Pose

Names

Hanumanasana, Monkey Pose

How to perform Hanumanasana

Hanumanasana in yoga is commonly known as ‘doing the splits’.


Sit in Utkatasan, lift your hand in front of your nose and check which nostril is active. Now place your hands on the floor next to you and start stretching the leg of your active side to the front. With exhalation bring your active leg to the front and your inactive leg to the back, at first with the weight on your hands. Go to your full stretch.


If you are able to place your legs flat on the floor, you can bring your hands in front of your chest in the Namaste position.


If you want to go more advanced than even that, you can stretch your arms straight up, look towards the sky and lean back.


For coming out of the posture you first place your hands on the floor and shift the weight back on them by lifting your body up.

Take a deep breath, hold your weight up and first bring the leg of the back closer to your body before bringing the front leg back, too. Move carefully and slowly.

Benefits of Hanumanasana

Hanumanasana is obviously very helpful for gaining flexibility. But not only that!

The yoga pose gives a strengthening stretch to the hamstrings and especially in the time when you cannot place your legs flat on the floor yet, you will need the support and strength of your arms.


It prevents sciatica and a soft and careful practice of the monkey pose even helps against sciatic pain.


Hanumanasana stimulates the abdominal organs and makes the blood flow properly through your veins.

If you suffer from insomnia, it helps your system to get back into its normal rhythm.

The strong blood flow of course also removes toxins and helps your skin look fresh and alive – yoga for beauty!

Focus Points

The main focus point in this yoga pose is to keep your knees straight. You should also not lean on one side but have the whole upper body and your back straight.

Your thorax is wide and open while your shoulders should be completely relaxed.

Tips and Help

If you practice Hanumanasana, it is generally better to do it on the floor directly or on a blanket instead of one the yoga mat. The sticky mat keeps your foot from sliding forward which can make the posture difficult.


In the beginning you can also put a blanket under your knees and ankles.

When to Avoid Hanumanasana

In general you need to be extra careful when performing this posture not to hurt or tear your hamstrings. Always stop when you feel intensive stretch and stay there for a while. The next time you will realize that you can already go further.


If you hamstrings are already injured or hurting, you should not do this posture.