Drishti & Balance

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. 

  1. Thumb, or Angusthamadhye, as used in Upward Salute in the sun salutations.
  2. Tip of the Nose, or Nasagre, as in upward facing dog.
  3. 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.
  4.  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.
  5. (See above)
  6. 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.
  7. 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.
  8. Toes, or Padayoragre, as in Seated Forward Fold, or Utthita Padangusthasana.
  9. 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. 
  10. 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

What Makes Yoga...Yoga?

We've all heard the word 'yoga' before (or maybe not) and have created some sort of idea of what yoga is... Some people might consider it chanting, meditation, or a bunch of hippies dancing around a yoga mat. Some people might define yoga as a workout class, others, an escape. The word yoga literally translates to "to yolk" or "union," and although the physical asana, or posture, practice can definitely be a workout, it is so much more than that.

Patanjali, who wrote the Yoga Sutras which are a guide that offers insight on how to find enlightenment, describes in the very first sutra (1.1) that yoga is now. Yoga is the practice of staying present- something we have not been taught in our fast paced society. This intense focus on the now is what people experience and describe as bliss, or freedom. This has certainly been the case for me. 

Patanjali then goes on to say that we see yoga when we still the mind. (1.2) Now something like 'stilling the mind' is much easier said than done. Why don't you try it right now? Take a deep breath in, hold, open your mouth and eeeeexhhhaaaale it all out. Now close your eyes with the intention to still your mind. Quiet your thoughts. 

How long did it last? For most of us, only seconds- if that. Thoughts of yesterday, or last week, or last year come pouring in. Things we should have done, things we have to do later today. The endless 'to do' list. Lunch plans. Dinner plans. Grocery lists. Regrets, anticipations, it goes on and on.

This is where the practice of yoga separates itself from so many other activities, forms of exercise, or really anything else I've ever experienced. This does not mean that for the first time you step onto your mat that you have to have already mastered quieting the mind. Luckily for us, the practice of yoga is just an effort to still the mind. It is trying to stay conscious of what is going on around you, from physical alignment to your breath, without the constant movement of the thoughts. It doesn't matter who you are, what your body is like, injured or not, young or old, anybody can practice yoga. It doesn't matter if you are in child's pose or a handstand, you can practice being conscious of the mind in any moment of your practice or the day. 

See what its like. Do a little experiment today and see how often you can keep track of your thoughts. Observe them. Now the average adult thinks some 50-70,000 thoughts a day, so monitoring them all could be quite exhausting! But just watch. Notice if your mood shifts from anything but happy, what are the thoughts going on in your mind? Have they moved to the past, repeating things that have already come and gone? Are you anticipating the future, worrying about something that may never even happen? Just watch. And know that at any point you have the power to change your thoughts. Focus on what is happening now. This moment is the only place life truly exists. 

Look at that! You're practicing yoga! See if you can take this with you into the rest of your day, or next time you step onto your mat. See if staying conscious helps you stay steady in your practice and life. It certainly has changed mine!

And with that - I wish each of you a wonderful weekend, & Happy Fall!

xo, m.

Welcome!

Gratitude is something that has always been extremely important to me. Growing up, my mother instilled it's great value. Learning to appreciate everything in my life allowed it to be bountiful and continually filled with all the things I was expressing gratitude for.

So I would like to say thank you. Yes, YOU. For taking just one small moment of your day to stop, and read this. Thank you for your support. Thank you for believing in me. Thank you for allowing me to be a guide on your path. Thank you for your trust. Thank you for everything I learn from you each time I teach. Thank you for allowing me to make my passion into my career, my lifestyle. 

We are just beginning on this beautiful journey, no matter how far we've come, there's no limit to our potential. Thank you, thank you, thank you. 

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