It’s easy to let the gaze wander during a yoga class – you get distracted by the teacher, the candles at the front of the room, your neighbour’s loudly patterned pants, or their state-of-the-art water bottle. Alas, every time your eyes drift around the room, your attention follows and you slowly lose your focus, balance, strength and alignment within a pose.
A drishti, a focal point, is where to direct the gaze in a yoga posture or meditation. Drishti translates to vision or insight in Sanskrit, and is not just related to the practice of yoga asana (postures). Yogis in ancient times realised that where the gaze is focused, the mind naturally follows, and by keeping a strong, steady, fixed gaze, the mind can tune out surrounding stimulus and distractions. This helps our awareness draw inwards and helps our mind stay in the present – within a posture, on the yoga mat, and during meditation. During meditation, a drishti is used to concentrate the mind and stay focused. In yoga postures, a drishti is used to aid stability in a pose, and to deepen the primary movement of the asana as you hold for extended periods of time.
To practice and use a drishti in a yoga posture, think about where the alignment of the pose is naturally directing your gaze. Focus first on the alignment of the pose, then steady the breath, and then finally settle into your drishti. Of course, a drishti is particularly helpful when practicing a balance, but can also help you maintain a pose for an extended amount of time.
Let your drishti practice keep your attention on your mat this October!