Where the Eyes Go, There the Mind Goes–Drishti

Drishti is one of those yoga practices that sounds deceptively simple: Just focus your eyes on one point. But anyone who’s ever toppled over in tree pose or wobbled in warrior knows just how tricky it can be.

Drishti is our gazing point in a pose, in Ashtanga Yoga each pose has a specific gazing point, but the external sight is not what drishti is about. Drishti comes from the root drsh which means “to perceive”. . . so drishti is not just our sight, but our perceptions and understanding as well. What I love so much about yoga–what seems external or physical always has an inner depth–an inner meaning to it. Drishti relates to how we perceive our world. Using our yogic sight or drishti gazing through the happenings in our life seeing the real meaning–the lessons behind our circumstances.

How does the drishti apply to our daily lives? Well drishti develops focus–not only on our mats, but in life as well. Practicing drishti on our mats will help strengthen our ability to keep our focus no matter people or situations around us are swirling off our mats. You will be able to keep your focus on what you want to do in life without distractions–this keeps your energy (or prana) in your body, giving you the energy you need for your direction in life.

“Don’t look around to see where everyone else is, it won’t help, so best to mind your own body” is what I say to my students,where I teach gentle vinyasa on Mondays in mission bay, San Francisco.

So let’s discover the science behind this gaze as I leave you with 9 drishti points you can try in your yoga practice. Using your drishti during asana will improve vision by exercising the eye muscles and increasing blood flow to the optic nerve. Drishti helps to align your head and neck in the poses; reaching upward into the sun salute, for example, the gaze is at your thumbs, this requires your arms to be in correct alignment, if your arms are behind your ears (stressing your shoulder joint) you won’t see your thumbs.The gaze point for any asana is the one that most benefits the energetic movement of the asana.

But the main purpose of drishti is mind control. By training your eyes to not dart about the room during practice you will improve your concentration and therefore meditation. Your gaze should be a soft, hazy-out of focus gaze.

There are 9 drishtis:

1 – Tip of the nose – Nasagra Drishti
2 – Up to space – Urdva Drishti
3 – Third Eye – Brumadya Drishti
4 – Tip of the middle finger – Hastagra Drishti
5 – Tip of the thumb – Angushta Drishti
6 – Right Side – Parshva Drishti
7 – Left Side – Parshva Drishti
8 – Navel – Nabi Drishti
9 – Tip of the big toe – Padagra Drishti

But when drishti is plugged in, and the whole room is invisible, that’s when Ashtanga happens. Nothing stands out, nothing is thought, and there is peace, and I have yet to conquer this; as I journey through my 11th year in yoga practice. Drishti is a way to practice pratyahara (8 limbs of Yoga) sense withdrawal of energy from the senses —and if you think for a second about what you’re doing when you’re being asked to practice drishti. . .Well, be amazed.


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