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Sungazing—also known as sun gazing, solar healing, solar gazing, solargazing, solarhealing, sun staring, Sun Yoga, Surya Yoga and Solar Yoga—is the term broadly applied to the practice of staring directly at the sun. In common usage it refers to looking at the sun at sunrise or sunset to receive nourishment from it to either complement or replace eating food (inedia). Sungazers believe that if they:

  • exercise caution,
  • only sungaze during the half-hour time period when the sun rises or sets so the UV radiation is at its minimum [1],
  • and use the right methods (sungazing for short periods of time early on, and gradually working up to longer amounts of time),

they can avoid any damage to their eyes, while experiencing various spiritual and physical benefits as a result of sungazing.

Similar to Breatharianism, there is no rigorous scientific evidence available to back the claims of sungazers. There have been reports [2] that prominent sungazer Hira Ratan Manek submitted himself to NASA for scientific monitoring [3][4], and further reports that he was able to survive for extended periods solely on light and occasional beverages;water and buttermilk, which he only consumed out of politeness when they were offered. [5] [6] These claims have been challenged by some [7], but as of yet there is no consensus about whether Manek was actually monitored, or whether he was found to have survived without food. Both proponents and opponents of sungazing are anxious to see the matter undergo comprehensive scientific coverage.


Possible Dangers

The practice of sungazing is highly controversial, as there is considerable evidence that looking directly at the sun for even brief periods of time may cause blindness or severe damage to the eye.[1] Solar retinopathy is a form of damage to the eye’s retina due to solar radiation[2] that frequently results from sungazing during a solar eclipse.[3] Although vision loss due to this damage is generally reversible,[2] permanent damage and loss of vision have been reported[4]. Most eye care professionals advise patients to avoid looking directly at the sun,[5] during solar eclipses and otherwise, indicating that they are taking their vision into their own hands by doing so. There is also evidence indicating that sun exposure can result in skin cancer.

Cultural background

According to some of its proponents, sungazing was practiced by many ancients:

“[E]arly cultures of/in Egypt, the Aztecs, the Mayans, Indian Yoga, Native American tribes, Tibetan Yoga, and some traditions of QiGong (aka Qi Gung, Chi Kung), such as BaKua (aka BaGe, BaQi) and Tai Chi.” [8]

The Egyptians and other ancient cultures are known to have been sun worshipers, and it is possible that some also sungazed.

Claims of Sungazers

Some positive results reported by sungazers are increased energy levels and decreased appetite [9]. It has been proposed that this may be the result of melatonin production resulting from direct ultraviolet exposure (see seasonal affective disorder). One of the most famous sungazers, Hira Ratan Manek, claims that sungazing is capable of providing the body with nourishment; he also claims that since 1995 he has lived on sunlight without a need for solid food, and that he does not experience the food cravings or lethargy commonly associated with starvation or a lack of nutrients. His wife has stated that he drinks small amounts of coffee, tea, fruit juices, and buttermilk.[10]

Sungazing has also been used with such techniques as the Bates Method to improve eyesight, but many practitioners believe that sungazing alone can improve or completely recover one from visual defects.

Manek and many other sungazers have also reported having a wide range of spiritual experiences as a result of their practice, sometimes including but not necessarily limited to:

  • feelings of well being,
  • a connection with nature,
  • a feeling of spiritual enlightenment,
  • and a sense of rightness about sungazing as a practice.

Sungazing Process

Sungazing is often practiced with the bare feet in direct contact with bare earth, and for most during the so-called "safe hours": one half-hour after sunrise and one half-hour before sunset. [11] Others feel that sungazing can be done at other times of day, and have proposed that a number of factors may be involved in the sungazing process. Such individuals believe that changes that occur during the course of sungazing are able to alter human physiology in such a way that sungazing for extended periods, or during times other than the safe hours, becomes possible.

Authorities on sungazing [12]such as Manek suggest that those who wish to sungaze exercise care. His Solar Healing Center [13] makes the recommendation that sungazers only look at the sun for 10 seconds on their first day of sungazing, 20 on the second day, 30 on the third, and so on up to about 44 minutes, over the course of about nine months. Further, since the sun's rays are weakest when the sun appears close to the horizon, most sungazing authorities further suggest that sungazing only be performed directly after sunrise or before sunset.

Due to the way the eye functions, looking at the sun during a solar eclipse can be especially harmful, and for this reason the idea is condemned by sungazers.[citation needed]

In addition, sungazers do not recommend starving oneself, though they do suggest that it can ultimately become possible to transcend the need for food through sungazing.[citation needed]

Some practicioners of sungazing, impatient for results, have been known to gaze for an hour or more, hoping to achieve some sort of noticeable changes. Unfortunately, the only change that typically results is solar retinopathy and the formation of a visual artifact. This sort of impairment can involve a bright spot—typically about the angular size of the sun—right in the center of one's field of vision, which can make sight in that small area more difficult. This sort of occurrence can, according to the same sources, be avoided by exercising patience and caution, sungazing just a few seconds at at time early on, and later working up to longer amounts of time.

Manek runs a website which offers more help and studies on the subject.[14]

Scientific Studies on Sungazing

Currently there exists no solid scientific proof that sungazing actually works in the manner that sungazers believe, nor is there solid proof to the contrary. Many sungazers have posited that the practice ought to undergo a thorough analysis adherent to the scientific method, to either aid in proving or disproving it.

Hira Ratan Manek has in fact made claims on his website[15] to have been tested on several occasions under extended fasting conditions: first in Calicut, India under the direction of a Dr. C.K. Ramachandran; later in Ahmedabad, India under an international team of 21 medical doctors and scientists led by Dr. Sudhir Shah and Dr. K. K. Shah[16], the acting President of Indian Medical Association at that time; and then at the Thomas Jefferson University and the University of Pennsylvania. Other sources [17] ][18] have indicated that NASA has also observed Manek, though these claims have been contested. [19]

While these sources suggest that scientific work has been carried out on sungazing, the results have not been widely publicized, and neither the medical nor scientific communities at large acknowledge their validity. The sungazing community still awaits a rigorous and definitive scientific study on sungazing to resolve the matter.

Criticisms of Sungazing

The ideas of survival without food, or inedia, and sungazing have many opponents and critics[20][21][22] [23]. Practices such as sungazing have been called quackery, pseudoscience, and non-scientific on many occasions. Doctors, scientists, and others almost exclusively condemn the practice of sungazing, as follows:

1. Much criticism focuses around the idea that looking at the sun is in fact an unhealthy practice that could result in damage to the eyes or even blindness, rather than promoting health. Solar retinopathy is known to be caused in this manner, and solar eclipses often leave many observers with blindness of varying degrees and persistence.

1a. Arguments are made that the body utilizes a natural defense mechanism to protect itself from the sun. When a bright light is visible to the eye, the automatic reaction is a narrowing of its pupils, clenching of its eyelids, and immediate tear production.

2. Critics further contend that the human body has no apparatus whereby it can convert sunlight into a form of energy that it can use as fuel. Animals typically utilize extensive digestive systems to break down solid food matter into nutrients and food energy the body can use. Sungazers claim their eyes can do this instead, converting sunlight into energy for their bodies. This is similar to the way plants use photosynthesis to convert sunlight into food energy. However, while plants possess chlorophyll to facilitate photosynthesis, humans do not possess chlorophyll in their eyes.

2a. Even if a human could somehow harness energy from the sun with the eyes and convert it into necessary food energy and nutrients, the eyes provide a tiny surface area, particularly compared to that of a green plant’s leaves. Further, humans require a far greater amount of energy for sustenance than plants. Sungazing would likely have to be tens or hundreds of times as efficient as photosynthesis in plants to produce enough energy to keep a human being even minimally functional.

3. In addition to possible harm arising from damage to the eye, studies have shown that sun exposure can lead to increase risks of skin cancer.

Defenses of Sungazing

Sungazers counter that some of these criticisms utilize popular scare tactics or non sequiturs against sungazing in an attempt to attach negative emotional connotations to it with relatively little true scientific basis. Sungazers still continue in their practice, citing some of the following responses to detractors:

1. Sungazers believe that by exercising caution, and following a process such as the one outlined by Hira Ratan Manek, they can avoid solar retinopathy, blindness, and other potentially harmful eye defects. This means only looking at the sun when its rays are weak, around dawn and dusk, and slowly conditioning one’s eyes to increased levels of light, in a manner similar to physical or mental exercise. They do not recommend sungazing during solar eclipses at all.

1a. A body that is unaccustomed to physical exercise naturally responds to it with negative feedback. This is typically in the form of pains and aches and other “complaints.” If a doctor were to examine cells and tissues in a body that has recently undergone strenuous physical exercise he might assume, based on the acute and limited damage to those cells and tissues, that the physical exercise is harmful to the patient and not conducive to health. This view would be a gross misrepresentation of the matter however, much like not seeing the forest for all the trees. The human body has great recuperative abilities, and limited damage such as that incurred through physical exercise is generally temporary (except when caution is not exercised properly). The fact that the eyes, like the rest of the body, recoil in their own form of complaint when first seeing the bright light of the sun is not necessarily proof that sungazing is harmful. Those who practice sungazing on a regular basis find that their eyes soon adjust to it. In general, only at the commencement of a sungazing session do they experience any of these issues.

2. While it is true that human eyes do not possess chlorophyll, there are other ways to convert sunlight into energy. Photovoltaic cells—i.e. solar panels—can also harness and convert sunlight to energy. Red algae are known to use means other than chlorophyll to photosynthesize. For photosynthesis to work, all that is needed in theory is a way of harnessing the photoelectric effect to fuel an electron transport chain. Sungazers contend that the human eye may actually possess some sort of photovoltaic cells, and that this may be the means whereby humans can survive on sun energy.

2a. Sungazers believe that there is still a great deal of experimentation, analysis, and other work to be done on sungazing. There are different theories that could explain how a surface area as small as that provided by the eyes could absorb sunlight and convert it into food energy.[citation needed] It is possible that the photovoltaic cells sungazers theorize exist are highly efficient at energy conversion. However, another possibility is that the sunlight acts more as a catalyst, or ignition, that stimulates the production of energy from some other source.

3. Sungazers believe that while sun exposure and the likelihood of skin cancer have been linked by different studies, there may not actually be a direct link. The association is much more likely due to the use of different sun blocks on human skin, some of which have been shown to have carcinogenic effects.[6]

While sungazers widely admit that there is presently no scientific backing for the activity, they also suggest there is little or no evidence that disproves sungazing either. The sungazing community is hopeful that in the future the subject will receive thorough and widespread treatment by science and medicine.

Other Practitioners of Inedia

According to a BBC article [24], a man named Prahlad Jani underwent a brief study during which he ate no food and drank no water.

Famous sungazers

  • Gustav Fechner (1801-1887): German physicist and philosopher who is widely regarded as the father of psychophysics, the science which seeks to quantify the relationship between physical stimuli and the sensations they produce. Experiments on afterimage formation, for which he gazed at the sun, left him partially blind and painfully sensitive to light.
  • Khwaja Shamsuddin Azeemi (born 1927):Pakistani Sufi-Master and Parapsychologist who recommends sungazing for improving both near- and farsightedness, mental focus, and general well-being. However, he recommends sungazing only during the early few minutes of sunrise, when the sun is red-orange. and for starters not more than one minute a day for six months. He cautions against doing sungazing for prolonged periods as this could lead to mental health problems.


  1. ^ D van Norren (1991). "Photochemical Damage to the Eye". News Physiol Sci (6): 232-234. 1548-9213/91.
  2. ^ a b Chen JC, Lee LR (Nov 2004). "Solar retinopathy and associated optical coherence tomography findings". Clin Exp Optom. 87 (6): 390–3. PMID 15575813.
  3. ^ Stokkermans TJ, Dunbar MT (Oct 1998). "Solar retinopathy in a hospital-based primary care clinic". J Am Optom Assoc. 69 (10): 625–36. PMID 9805443.
  4. ^ Krasniz I, Beiran I, Miller B (1999-11-01). "Retinal lesion due to excessive exposure to sunlight". Harefuah 137 (9): 378–80, 431, 430. PMID 11419039.
  5. ^ n/a. "Health Effects from Ultraviolet Radiation: Report of an Advisory Group on Non-Ionising Radiation". Documents of the NRPB 13 (6). ISBN 0-85951-475-7.
  6. ^ The Chemical Sunscreen Health Disaster
  1. San Diego State University Dept. of Astronomy information on solar observation safety

See also

This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article "Sungazing". A list of authors is available in Wikipedia.
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