The practice of drishti, or vision (also translates to point of view, intelligence/wisdom), is a gazing technique that develops concentration. Perhaps you have heard a teacher casually tell you to 'find your drishti' in the midst of a class with no further explanation... well, let me explain.
We humans are predominantly visual creatures. Where our eyes are directed, our attention follows. The visual world can be addicting, over-stimulating, and ultimately distractive. We get caught up in the outer appearances of things, instead of keeping awareness inward. How often do you find yourself going through the motions of the poses in a yoga class while your eyes wander around the room - glancing at the girl's leggings in front of you, or at the guy who is growling and definitely not ujjayi breathing - instead of tuning into your own body and breathe? To counteract these habits, we must learn to take back control and focus the attention. One way to effectively do this is through implementing the technique of drishti in your yoga practice. Through the practice of drishti, you can cultivate a deeper level of concentration, find steadier balance, and limit your intake of external stimuli so as to manage your mind instead of letting your mind manage you.
In Yoga, there are 9 fixed points of gaze you can take, traditionally, one prescribed for each pose. Lets break them down.
- Thumb, or Angusthamadhye, as used in Upward Salute in the sun salutations.
- Tip of the Nose, or Nasagre, as in upward facing dog.
- Hand, or Hastagre, as practiced in many poses such as Trikonasana, triangle pose, or Utthita Parsvokanasana, extended side angle, where the hand directs the energetic reach.
- Sideways to the right and to the left, or Parsva drishti. This gazing point is slightly more ambiguous than the others, but is used mainly in twisting postures, such as Ardha Matsyendrasana, or Half Lord of the Fishes pose.
- (See above)
- Upward, or Urdhva drishti. This drishti as well as Parsva drishti ask you to gaze more into infinity rather than a specific part of your body. This can be practiced in Warrior 1, or Chair Pose.
- Navel, or Nabhichakra. The navel is considered the center of power in the body, and focus is brought here in poses such as Downward Facing Dog.
- Toes, or Padayoragre, as in Seated Forward Fold, or Utthita Padangusthasana.
- The Third Eye, or Brumadhye. Here, eyes are halfway or even fully closed gazing toward the space between the eyebrows. This can be practiced in Purvotanasana, reverse plank, or in any meditation.
- INNER DRISHTI - this is my bonus add on, but my most favorite. Closing the eyes in any asana is almost forcing your attention inward, and allows us to become aware of how we are excessively expending our energy outwards, rather than replenishing from within.
In every asana, there is a prescribed drishti which is intended to assist in concentration, aid movement, and help orient the energetic body in the right direction. Drishti is more than what 'the eye can see,' but rather a technique which can be used to look inward, and become aware of how our brains only let us see what we want to see - a projection of our limited thoughts, if that is what we continue to allow. Never force your gaze, in a way that strains the eyes, body or mind, instead use it as a tool to see the divine in every movement, every breath, every thing.
Some poses in which you can practice and master your drishti are in any balancing poses such as Tree, Eagle, Warrior 3 or Half Moon Pose. Play around with the difference of focusing your gaze on a fixed point, to moving it around, to even closing your eyes. Observe the differences that arise, without attachment or judgement. By beginning to fix your gaze on an unmoving point, you shall assume the characteristics of steadiness, stable and balanced.
*** See if there are any other areas in your life in which you can practice your drishti .Perhaps you can apply this intense focus to goals you would like to achieve. Let me know if you notice any changes.
xo - M