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Drishti

                 
The Sanskrit term drishti is defined as sight. Other   closely related Sanskrit words which point to its overall essence include drishau – eye, drishh – to see, drishhtah – observed,  drishhtim – vision & drishhtiigochara- macroscopic. Taken together Drishti can be explained as gazing or   looking inside. It is essentially a focusing technique, if we softly direct the   gaze at specific points, eg the navel the focus is directed inwards. This helps   to promote concentration & awareness into the movement we are   performing.

     
We spend most of our waking hours with our focus directed   outside partly out of an innate sense of curiosity but more importantly to keep   us safe & aware in an often hazardous world. You would not for instance   contemplate crossing a busy main road with your focus directed inward, not if   you want to live.
     
Yoga Asana practice provides us with an   opportunity to take time out & safely look inside ourselves, deep into the   microcosm to observe that which is actually happening. Often we waste this   opportunity & overlook a fundamental & essential part of  Ashtanga   vinyasa practise being more interested in seeing what other people are   doing (promoting competitiveness & comparison which have no legitimate place   in the sphere of yoga), or looking in the mirror (feeding ego & vanity or   even undermining our confidence if we don’t like what we see),  or looking at   the teacher for guidance (when really we should be looking to the teacher   within), or at the clock on the wall (distracting us from the present moment   which is where we should be when we practise).
     
Drishti has little to do with our physical sight, the real   looking is inside, and therefore Drishti can be performed just as effectively if   you are blind, perhaps more effectively. If we fix our sight upon distant   objects we are essentially outside ourselves, whereas if we fix our sight within   we embark upon a journey to see ourselves as we truly intrinsically are & we   are able to connect with the more subtle aspects of our practise such as the   breath & the bandhas.

     
There are traditionally Nine Drishti points which are   found in Ashtanga Vinyasa Yoga & in each Asana & Vinyasa your gaze should always be directed at one of them. They are as   follows with some examples of their application :

     
Nasagrai   : tip of the nose - Standing   forward bend
     
Nabi Chakra   : the navel -. Downward   dog
     
Hastagrai : the hand - Triangle
     
Padayoragrai : the toes - Seated forward   bend
     
Angusta ma Dyai : the thumbs - Standing with arms   over head
     
Urdhva / Antara Drishti : up to the sky -. Warrior   A
     
Parsva Drishti : far to the right – seated twist to   the right
     
Parsva Drishti : far to the left –  seated twist to   the left
     
Ajna Chakra / Broomadhya   : the third eye / between the   eyebrows – tortoise
     
Do not worry if you cannot remember all the relevant Drishti points, any good teacher will consistently direct your gaze to   the appropriate one in each posture practised in class. If you are doing self   practise an alternative is to let your gaze move in the direction of the stretch   for example in a spinal twist allow the gaze to follow the direction of your   spine which will lead it to Parsva drishti over your shoulder. Also   think of your eyes as being like those of a doll which will follow the movement   of your head, ie. Where the head moves the gaze will follow in the same   direction.

     
Another important point to note is that the gaze should remain   soft as this reflects the quality of the core of your body (this is the central   axis running from the perineum to the brain). If the gaze is hard or staring   this will create a hardening in the body & create more tension which Yoga is designed to release not intensify. This hardening can enhance   our sense of separateness & disconnection leading to stress & anxiety.   So in addition to gazing in the right locality, take a moment to check that the   eyeballs are soft within the sockets & that you are not squinting &   narrowing the eyes.  Often students report that looking to the tip of the nose   creates double vision & makes them feel dizzy; this can be a sign that you   are trying too hard & thus staring at the nose, instead look just beyond the   tip, allow the eyes to relax so that the external vision merely softly   blurs.
     
The following exercises can help you to practise Drishti & can be done any time you have a couple of minutes to spare. They can   also provide a wonderful tool for relaxation.

     
1. Focus & direct your gaze at specific points eg. a single   letter of a word on a page, a spot on the floor, a petal of a flower. Notice   what it is that eventually makes you look away.
     
2. Try to control your urge to look at something moving in the   distance.
     
3. Gaze just beyond the tip of your nose for one minute.
     
4. Observe your wandering eyes, notice what it is that   distracts you!
     
5. Learn to gaze softly, as you gaze at a point, check the   quality of your eyes, consciously relax & soften them.
     
6. Have a look at photos of   people practising postures &   observe the quality of their gaze & you will see that they are not looking   outside.

   
Drishti is one of the fundamental components of Ashtanga   Vinyasa Yoga along with ujjayi (victorious breath) & the bandhas (locks/ seals). When these three are actualised in unison the   state known as tristana occurs. This transforms the practise to be   fluid, graceful, subtle, strong, purifying & ultimately meditative. Although Drishti may at first seem to you a small insignificant point it is   infact imperative & without it the real fruits of  yoga are   totally unobtainable. Without it how you see yourself & the world around you   will always be distorted & flawed. Drishti is a tool, a microscope,   a lens to see all that is inside every single cell. Use it and the benefits will   soon become clear.
 
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