“When you reach for the stars, you are reaching for the farthest thing out there. When you reach deep into yourself, it is the same thing, but in the opposite direction. If you reach in both directions, you will have spanned the universe.” ― Vera Nazarian
Where our eyes are directed, our attention potentially follows. When we get caught up in the outer appearance of ourselves, our poses, another practitioner or a wavering distraction in class, our prana (ascending life force - vitality) flows out of us. When the eyes wander, it creates distractions that lead us further away from our yoga (union). Control and focus of the attention are fundamental principles of asana yoga practice. When we control and direct the focus, first of the eyes and then of the attention, we are using the yogic technique called Drishti.
Sight is one of our primary senses. Half of the human brain is directly or indirectly devoted to processing visual information. Images provide the foundation of our worldly understanding. Naturally, sight is a significant part of our physical yoga practice. Today – and in your next classes – we invite you to examine and play with it.
In yoga, Drishti is the “focused gaze”. It is a tool used to develop concentration in our practice. Similar to our Ujjayi breath, practicing Drishti helps you reclaim control of the distracted mind through sight.
The tip of your nose in poses like upward facing dog (Nasagrai Drishti), your navel in downward facing dog (Nabi Chakra Drishti), your hands in trikonasana (Hastagrai Drishti), your toes in forward folds (Padayoragrai Drishti) are just areas of emphasis to focus to refine your yoga practice.
Start noticing where your eyes wander in class. What impact does it have on the structure of the pose and creating habits that prevent you from developing in your shapes? If you bend your neck to watch your feet as you come down into Chaturanga Dandasana (Low Plank), you’re preventing your whole spine from straightening.
In seated twist, you might feel as though fixing your gaze on the opposite wall deepens the pose. Try shutting your eyes and imagining the turn of your spine instead.
With eyes shut or unfocused, your brain must build its perception of the outside world using other senses. Suddenly, your whole body is required to deliver sensory information.
Drishti is a powerful tool to develop your physical practice into a truly mindful experience. It delivers us away from cogitation, creating a true moving meditation.
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