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.

 

Hips Don’t Lie: Yoga for Hip Health

svadhisthana

The epicenter of the second chakra, hips are the seat of our emotions. The second chakra (Svadhisthana) is linked to sexuality, desire, the depth of feeling, and procreation. When the second chakra is blocked it hinders our ability to let go and let it flow. The blockage affects us in feeling emotionally cold, low energy, the inability to feel sexual desire.

When we work with the body, we are undoubtedly working with the mind. Then the energy system comes in as a bridge to connect the body and mind.

When emotions arise in the body, it charges energy that stores our deepest vulnerabilities in the hips. Whether work stress, financial worries or deep-rooted family issues, we may be holding negative energy in the hips. Our bodies are molded by our daily posture of sitting at ninety degree angles, therefore our hips tend to suffer postural strains.

In order to breakthrough and crumble away stuck energy, I make sure to include hip flexor and hip opener poses when I teach vinyasa and restorative yoga.

Releasing tension by unblocking the second chakra in our seated emotions may stir up emotions, which I find wonderful, because yoga brings awareness to your body that connects with your mind as it unlocks stale energy. Stretching out your hips can also help prevent lower back pain, or knee or hamstring injuries.

In Psychology Today, a research study identifies the body to store emotional pain in unlikely places.

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Earth Squat (Malasana)

This low earth squat allows the skeleton to relax and prevents compression on the sacrum, tailbone as well as the lower back.

Stand with your feet slightly wider than hip width apart. Bend your knees and lower your hips towards the floor into a squat. Bring your arms to the inside of your legs pressing out on the elbows pushing away your inner thighs, anchored below your knees. Press the palms of your hands together in prayer hands (anjali mudra). Relax your shoulders and lengthen your spine by intending the crown of your head  towards the ceiling. Slowly straighten your legs coming into standing forward bend to release your hips.

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Pigeon Pose

The pigeon pose is fantastic for the hip flexors and stretching out your glutes. This pose is all about the hips, but can often prove difficult for some. Once you’re there, allow yourself to truly let go as the negative energy is released and your physical tension lets up through this deep hip opener.

To get the most out of Pigeon Pose, keep your hips square to the front of your mat. The back leg extends in line with the hip without sickling the ankle. Lengthen through the chest and spine and if your body allows it, feel free to move deeper, begin to fold the torso over the bent front leg. Bring awareness to your body to determine the difference  of feeling pain or being uncomfortable. If it’s anxiety you’re feeling, then stay in the pose and allow that which does not serve you to come up to the surface and fully release.

Hold each pose for five full, deep breath cycles.

There are a variety of yoga poses to breakthrough those stubborn hips.

  • Happy Baby Pose (inner thighs)
  • Reclined Bound Angle Pose (inner thighs)
  • Frog Pose (inner thighs)
  • Half Pigeon (outer thighs)
  • Low Lunge (hip flexors)

By loosening the hip joints through deep hip openers, the body signals the spine through nerve endings all the way to the brain telling it to stop releasing stress hormones. When hips are balanced you will feel more mobile and will likely have less pain, which leads to increased happiness and well-being. The best part of teaching private yoga is to work closely with the client as he/she takes time to move through a sequence of hip opening stretches. As the body gracefully manifests, it releases old energy, making room for fresh energy. The holistic yogic system was designed so that emotional breakthroughs can occur safely.

swadishtan

Listen to your body and discover where it needs to unravel an emotional knot.

When you don’t find time to make your way into a yoga class, make room at home for your mat, show yourself some love and give your hips a juicy flow that will give you freedom!

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Recess Endurance Training with Restorative Yoga

Photo Credit: Reebok Experience Store Prague

While I nourish my need for sweating, focus, discipline and determination during my cardio, weight training & rigorous Asana practice. I have discovered a way to nurture the more energetic spiritual side of my nature through restorative yoga. Instead of trying to fit the idea of the “correct” alignment in squats, burners, and planks, restorative poses allow you to let go and sink into what feels right in the moment as your muscles enter a restorative phase. Maria G. Araneta, PhD, MPH, of University of California San Diego, designed a study to analyze a steady loss in fat in obese women from low intensity exercise than aerobic exercise, which has been known to increase heart rate, burn calories and fat. Their findings revealed the significance in restorative yoga practice to reduce levels of cortisol which rises during times of stress and is known to increase abdominal fat. Findings also reported that yoga participants lost significantly more subcutaneous fat over the initial 6 months of the study period, and kept losing it during a maintenance period with less direct supervision. As Arenata explained, Poses are held much longer than in other styles of yoga, often as long as 7 minutes, compressing the muscle aligning with the breath, deepening the pose as measured breathing is emphasized. As endurance athletes, we ask much of our bodies. Moderate to intense exercise stimulates our sympathetic (“fight or flight”) nervous system, which literally breaks down muscle. Every workout we do challenges the body, and when the body adapts, it becomes stronger. However, the adaptation or recovery phase is just as important as the workout itself. Without recovery, there would be no gains in power, strength or endurance. One way to enhance your recovery is by practicing restorative yoga. Many athletes view yoga as an alternative means of exercise or physical training, but if practiced in its true spirit, yoga can balance body and mind, which enhances both athletic performance and well-being.

For more on restorative yoga to balance your endurance workout life, join me Thursday, September 21 @6-7:15pm at Oakland’s Loka Yoga for a rejuvenating flow experience.

See you on the mat!