Throughout the centuries, many cultures and traditions around the world have practiced sun worship and believed in the healing power of solar energy.
Many people today still consider the sun to be a powerful, life-giving celestial body.
According to some, sun gazing is one method of harnessing its healing power.
As the name suggests, sun gazing is a form of meditation that involves gazing at the sun. Participants look directly at the sun, most commonly during sunrise and sunset, to connect with and soak in its powerful energy.
The research on sun gazing and its benefits is limited. However, some people who practice it say it boosts their energy levels, reduces stress, and helps them feel more grounded, centered, and positive.
Still, there are important precautions to keep in mind.
The consensus in the medical community is that looking directly at the sun can be damaging to the eyes, potentially causing irreversible retinal damage and visual loss. If you choose to practice sun gazing, be sure to follow the precautions below to reduce your risk of retinal damage.
What is sun gazing?
“The sun is the primary source of energy to the earth, and the solar energy it gives us has been revered since the earliest civilizations,” explains color therapy expert Momtaz Begum-Hossain.
Begum-Hossain believes that sun gazing connects us with the sun’s primal power.
“Sun gazing is a form of meditation that allows us to reconnect with this natural life force. In its most basic form, it involves looking at the sun and being charged by its energy, which we can then take away and harness in our day,” she says.
According to Begum-Hossain, sun gazing is similar to other meditative practices like moon gazing meditation. She believes sun gazing can bring on a heightened sense of inner peace and relaxation.
It may even be easier than traditional meditation practices.
“In some respects, sun gazing is easier than a more traditional meditation, as you have a physical visual to focus on — the sun — which will stop your mind from wandering,” says Begum-Hossain.
Benefits of sun exposure
There’s no scientific research to suggest that sun gazing meditation offers any benefits. However, there are plenty of documented benefits to sun exposure.
Evidence suggests that sunlight exposure can:
- regulate hormones and circadian rhythm
- combat fatigue and drowsiness
- improve sleep quality
- ease skin conditions like acne, psoriasis, and eczema
- increase vitamin D and bone health
- decrease risk for certain cancers
- improve or maintain eyesight
- improve or maintain mental health
Regulate hormones and circadian rhythm
The sun is cyclic, meaning it rises and sets every single day. Begum-Hossain believes connecting with this cycle can help regulate our body’s own natural rhythm.
“Being connected to the sun and sunlight…allows our body’s circadian rhythms to function properly,” she says. “When your body is in sync in this way, your metabolism is better, which is beneficial for your overall health.”
There’s plenty of research to suggest that sunlight plays a part in regulating melatonin, a hormone that controls your circadian rhythm and is linked to sleep.
“Within the eye’s retina, there are photosensitive cells, which connect with our pituitary gland,” says Begum-Hossain. “When light is received by the pituitary gland, it makes the mind and body feel more balanced.”
One 2008 study found that people who were exposed to sunlight in the morning were able to fall asleep more quickly at night, and that sunlight may be effective in the treatment of sleep conditions such as insomnia.
A study from 2014 found that exposure to sunlight could be an effective countermeasure for fatigue and drowsiness.
Ease skin conditions
According to The World Health Organization (WHO), sunlight exposure may help certain skin conditions like acne, psoriasis, and eczema.
The same 2008 study mentioned earlier found that vitamin D from sun exposure plays a role in building strong, healthy bones.
Reduce risk of some cancers
While it’s important to note that excessive sun exposure can increase your risk of cancer, there’s some research to suggest that moderate amounts of sunlight can actually help prevent certain cancers.
Research from 2008 found that people who lived in locations with more sun were less likely to have certain types of cancer compared with those who lived in locations with fewer daylight hours.
- prostate cancer
- ovarian cancer
- colon cancer
Benefits for eyes
One 2017 study on myopia found that increased ultraviolet B (UVB) exposure was associated with a reduction in near-sightedness. However, simply being outside can provide UVB exposure.
There’s no evidence to suggest that sun gazing improves myopia or benefits the eyes in any way. Most in the medical community are in agreement that looking directly at the sun can cause eye damage.
Benefits for mental health
The mental health benefits of sun exposure include:
- increased dopamine and serotonin
- an improved mood
- a reduction in depressive symptoms
A 2011 study of 68 adults found that those who received the most sun exposure in the 30 days prior had the highest density of dopamine receptors in the reward regions of their brains.
Another study from 2002 found that sunlight directly impacted the turnover of serotonin in the brain.
A 2019 review connected sun exposure with a decrease in seasonal affective disorder, or depression provoked by seasonal change.
A 2021 study also found that people who enjoyed daily sunlight over a 30-day period experienced a decrease in depressive episodes.
It’s important to note that these studies all refer to sun exposure, not the practice of sun gazing itself.
Are there any benefits to sun gazing?
Some believe that sun gazing practices can help you:
- connect with a higher power or your spiritual self
- recharge and increase energy
- improve your mood
- attract positive energy
The spiritual benefits of sun gazing aren’t documented by scientific research, however.
“When we’re in the meditative state of sun gazing, we can focus on our inner desires,” says Begum-Hossain. “Being able to do this can help us manifest and attract the right energies that we need in our life at that time.”
She also notes that sun gazing can be incredibly calming.
“When you focus your mind and body on the sun, you’ll form a deep connection with it,” she says. “This energy will naturally calm your mind and encourage the sensation of clarity and focus.”
Begum-Hossain also believes that sun gazing can activate the pituitary gland, a part of the endocrine system linked to the secretion of hormones.
“Being in the sun increases levels of serotonin and dopamine, which lift our mood,” Begum-Hossain says. “The fact that this meditation takes place alfresco means we have to go outside, which is always beneficial for mental health.”
Begum-Hossain believes sun gazing can be beneficial for your eyes if done correctly, though there’s no scientific evidence to support this.
How to do it, step by step
Begum-Hossain shares a sun gazing practice she has found to be beneficial in her own life. It’s important to find a practice that works best for you.
It’s advisable to start slowly. If your eyes begin to feel uncomfortable or irritated, make sure you stop.
Before you begin
Before starting your sun gazing meditation, keep the following tips in mind:
- Find a suitable outdoor space to meditate.
- Don’t wear glasses or contact lenses.
- Don’t gaze through glass or plastic, like a window or greenhouse.
- Practice barefoot if possible.
“For sun gazing to be effective, it’s essential that you observe the meditation outside,” says Begum-Hossain. “Even if sunlight floods in through your windows, the glass is a barrier to the energy that the sun rays radiate.”
Begum-Hossain also notes that many sun gazing purists recommend practicing barefoot to connect to the earth.
“However, as sun gazing occurs outside, this may not always be possible,” she says.
Begum-Hossain also believes location is key.
“If you can only watch the sun from a busy street, it’s likely to feel less impactful than being in a natural landscape,” she says.
Its’s OK if you don’t have access to sweeping vistas or rolling countryside. You can still practice this meditation in your yard or at your local park.
How to sun gaze
Prepare by taking some deep breaths. Take the time to stretch and loosen up your body. Then follow these steps:
As you practice, make sure to pace yourself.
“A beginner may be able to build up to around 5 minutes after a couple of sessions, while a more experienced sun gazer may be able to look directly at the sun for half an hour. Build up to the length that best suits you,” Begum-Hossain says.
She also notes that you can squint if you need to.
As you practice, take a moment to let the light energy enter and flow through your body.
“This will wake up your skin, your blood, your chakras, your organs, your muscles, and your bones,” says Begum-Hossain.
You can also add movement to your meditation.
“If standing stationery feels too intense, then introduce movements like stretches,” says Begum-Hossain. “It’s best to end with some stretches when your meditation comes to a natural end.”
Most traditional healthcare professionals and ophthalmologists don’t recommend sun gazing.
If you do choose to try it, it’s important that you do so safely. Follow these tips to protect yourself:
- Avoid sun gazing when the sun is brightest, usually midday.
- Wear a sunscreen with SPF to protect your skin from UV rays.
- Take notice of whether your practice affects your eyesight throughout the day.
- Gaze at a distance to help to reduce the risk of developing myopia.
- If you experience any discomfort, stop your practice immediately.
Begum Hossain believes sunrise and sunset, when UV rays are at their lowest, are the best times to practice sun gazing.
If you start seeing colors during sun gazing, Begum-Hossain says it isn’t something to be concerned about.
“This is a reaction from your eyes,” she says. “Seeing so much intense light can overwhelm your retina, and it reacts by breaking up the light into colors.”
Still, you shouldn’t experience any lingering changes in vision or sensations in the eye. If you do, stop your practice and seek out a healthcare professional.
There’s isn’t much research into sun gazing meditation and how it could benefit your body and mind.
However, many people believe connecting with natural forces can be incredibly healing, both physically and mentally.
If you’re trying sun gazing meditation, make sure you start slow and stop if you feel any discomfort.
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