Drishti – settle your gaze


How often in class do I say “ find your Drishti”,  “settle your gaze” or “ have your eyes gently closed”.   Well the honest answer is a lot, but this is with good reason.   By explaining a little about Drishti, what it means, and why and how to use a Drishti, the next time you hear this invitation,it will have a little more meaning.

How often in class do you notice what the person on the mat next to you is doing,  or a patch of dry skin on your foot…….the list is endless.  But the effect is the same  when your eyes notice these things your attention and focus follows and before we know it the piece of dry skin or the slogan on someone’s t shirt takes more of our attention than our practice.

Your yoga practice should provide a space and time for “you” to let go of outside concerns, reconnecting with yourself and finding a little piece of stillness and calm.  Attention is such a valuable tool to bring to your yoga practice, to enable this to happen.  Drishti provides us with such a tool.

We live in a visually stimulating world whether it is via electronic devices, shop windows, advertising campaigns, there is always something to distract us visually, energetically and emotionally.  Sometimes this is useful, for example when visiting a gallery or crossing the road, but not so useful when it takes our energy and focus away from our practice.

Drishti is a gazing technique that develops concentration.  When we direct our gaze, and then our attention, we are using a Drishti.  Allowing the eyes to wander creates distractions.

When you restrict your visual focus to one point your attention is no longer dragged from object to object, like what the person on the mat next to you is doing, or that patch of dry skin…  By fixing the gaze on an unmoving point you can assume the characteristics of that point, becoming stable and still, and the mind can focus and find some stillness.

There are two different types of Drishti.  ANTARA DRISHTI, an internal gaze mostly used in meditative practices, bringing us closer to the Pratyahara ( sense withdrawal) and Dharana (concentration), the 5th and 6th limbs of yoga.   BAHYA DRISHTI an external gaze mostly used when practicing Asana.

In Asanas using a Drishti, assists concentration, aids movement and helps to orientate the energetic body.  Firstly focus on the alignment of the body with your teacher, find your breath and then find your Drishti.  Maintain a soft gaze, keeping the muscles around the eyes relaxed.   Avoid holding a “Paddington bear stare” and creating tension in the eyes and mind.  Its as though you are trying to gently see the inner essence of the object, which is undoubtedly easier if the object is a candle flame or you are lucky enough to practice at the foot of a mountain.  However it is still possible with a more regular class setting or if practicing at home, to try using a favourite picture or view from the window.

There are 8 Drishtis which we use in our Asana practice:

DrishtiLocationSuggested Asana
ANGUSTHAMADHYEMiddle of the thumbUrdhva vrkasana, Utkatasana
BRUMADHYEMiddle of the eyebrows with the eyes half closedArdho mukha svanasana
NASAGRETip of the noseUttanasan
HASTAGAHEThe handsTrikonasana
PARSHVATo the left or right sideTwists
URDHVAAbove the eyes towards the skyBhujangasana, Upavista konasana
NABHICAKREThe navalArdho mukha svanasana
PADAYORAGRETips of the toesPaschimottanasana, Janu sirasana.

The above listed Drishti are mainly used to deepen the primary movement of an Asana.  However in balancing Asana is can be useful to find a point in front of you ( not the person in front of you or your reflection), something as benign as a mark on the wall will help to bring stillness to a balance.  Once you feel proficient in an Asana try using an Antara Drishti (internal gaze), and see how that changes the “flavour” of your practice.

Taking your practice “off the mat”, Drishti can also mean vision or point of view.  So maybe you could change your point of view, or move your Drishti, the next time you find yourself caught up in a negative train of thought.  This may be a little more challenging than your Asana practice.

Om Shanti

Laura is a registered yoga teacher, teaching classes, one to one sessions and workshops in and around the Godalming area.

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