The Mindful Being
by Zu Anjalika Kamis Gunnulfsen
“Mamma let’s do the flame-gazing exercise again” said my six-year-old. He loves this ‘flame-gazing’ activity or Trataka, a technique I introduced to him two months ago. In a nutshell, it involves staring into the flame of a candle, which in turn helps with concentration and memory.
When we think about boosting memory power for adults, eating the herb gingko biloba comes to mind. Afterall, this herbal supplement has been around for many centuries. For most, supplement is not an option for their children.
So while we work on ensuring our kids are equipped with good mental power, why is boosting memory ability all that important and how do we help our kids achieve this?
From birth, a child’s growing memory is the crucial part of his cognitive growth. Parents will continue to find ways to help their kids boost their memory power. The amazing role memory plays in our lives becomes apparent as we are who we are, mainly because of what we remember.
As a child gets older, his memory power will get stronger while the capacity increases. If you can determine what children remember – why and when, you can certainly encourage that developmental growth.
What’s important to note is that while mind-training is good, mind relaxation is also needed for balance. One without the other will not perform to it maximum ability.
Mind-training combined with mind relaxation has been ever present since the inception of yoga itself, couple of thousand years ago.
In this 21st century our lives are pretty much being taken over by technology. For most of us, every waking hour is spent amongst smart phones, computers and noise that over-stimulate the minds. We hardly find time or opportunity to relax, unwind and quieten our minds. What is worse is that we let that same lifestyle control our children.
For the young especially, stimulating their minds positively is imperative. It is also necessary to provide variety in order to promote constant stimulation. Another factor to consider when arranging mind-training activities is age appropriateness.
Super memory is not a myth; it’s definitely attainable. With all that said, let us now look into the fundamentals of the following two variations of mind-training and relaxation practices, and how the practices can help attain the best possible mental calmness and wellness capacity in our children.
Trataka or flame-gazing is one of the most popular mind training activities in yoga. Trataka develops concentration and memory. Directly translated, it means concentrated gazing and that is exactly what Trataka does.
During the Trataka practice, a candle is placed about a meter away, on the eye level. Keep focus on the flame and continue gazing at it without blinking. It is also important to breathe normally. Gaze onto the flame until tears start running down the cheeks. Then slowly close the eyes and relax. Then with a slight pressure, place palms over the eyes and hold for about 30 seconds. This cycle may be repeated few times.
Trataka is certainly a very good exercise for the eyes; known to help considerably with many eye issues. Conjunctivitis happens lots with the young; Trataka is known to keep it at bay. Ward off and reduce astigmatism wholesomely; try Trataka!
Without a doubt, Trataka calms and relaxes the mind. Definitely a plus for children as it presents the ability to focus more and concentrate longer without getting distracted. With all these perks, daily stress and fatigue, eliminated. Better sleep and peaceful nervous system will be introduced.
What is Manas Dharana? Simply put, Manas Dharana means concentrating the mind onto one place or object. This technique calms and promotes mind receptiveness, and has a positive impact on the brains.
This exercise can be held indoors or outdoors. With eyes closed, children are led to listen to one external sound each time; birds chirp, the rustling of paper or even footsteps outside the window. They will also be required to breathe normally and steadily. Focus and concentration is needed. They will follow the direction to where the sound is heading. Then questions relating to the sounds will be asked; example will be where the sound comes from, where it is travelling to.
In Manas Dharana, the mind is trained to concentrate on just one thing each given time; meaning focus plays a big part in this exercise. With focus, the mind quietens down and calmness is induced; helpful for everyone especially the young.
With Manas Dharana as part of their lifestyle, children will be able to automatically switch on to this mode whenever studying or memorizing work is needed. Concentration and focus; two words synonymous with students, can be achieved with this simple exercise.
Do also note that breath and breathing plays a vital role in these two exercises. Breath controls the mind; oxygen will be amply supplied with each breathing, making concentration and focus lots easier.
So there you go, the two mind-training techniques in yoga. Such simple steps, with no costs, yet resulting in huge perks.
Emphasis should really be given to Trataka and Manas Dharana as support for developing minds.
Understanding how focus and concentration can be elevated; also ways in which memories are encoded in childhood and later retrieved and used has important relations in many areas during a child’s developing years.
Afterall, Thomas Edison did say, ‘the greatest invention in the world is the mind of a child’ and he cannot be more apt!
This article was featured in YogaMail Jul-Sep 2017 issue.