The Power of a Focused Gaze, Drishti

How many times have you been distracted on your Yoga mat because of that scabby nail, buzzing fly, or caught yourself staring into space not taking action and how many times have you established a connection with a person after getting that feeling of being watched then lost your balance? Based on our emotional, physical and mental state, eyes allow us to see all or nothing depending on whether we are actively or inactively gazing. So, where are we directing our energy?

Drishti literally translates to focused gaze in Sanskirt and our drishti is a fundamental source to help us foster awareness, meditation and intention. It relates Patanjali’s legendary eight-Limbs of Yoga in particular the fifth limb of, pratyahara which is the application of sense withdrawal, additionally it also relates to the sixth limb dharana, concentration and mastery of our senses. Our ability to concentrate is invaluable as it guides us to our true self, whereas distraction leads us from it.

In asana practice we are taught to direct our Drishti to one of 9 points, for instance in Matsyasana, fish pose, we gaze towards the Ajna, third eye Chakra. But rather than narrate where your Drishti should follow, here are a few tips to help you transcend in your practice with your Drishti guiding you or you guiding your Drishti.

Ideas to guide your Drishti:

  • Look down and you will go down, sink deeper, move faster in a flow, but don’t fall over, or do fall, because it’s just as important
  • Look up to infinity, see where you are going and the create space to go and grow, opening up your heart as you transcend
  • Look straight ahead, keeping your spine straight and helping bring equilibrium in balancing poses. Glare at a fixed object or moving object and test your concentration and ability to withdrawal on your visionary sense to focus on what you need to
  • Navigate your gaze as you move through your asanas, allowing your body to follow your gaze and you may get there faster with a flowing grace at a breathe easy pace
  • Close your eyes to invert your vision and consciousness within to amplify the sensations in your body and really listen to it sing or cry
  • Reduce your spectrum of vision to limit surrounding distraction
  • Don’t look so hard, soften your gaze so you can direct your energy to other elements of practice

They say the eyes are windows to the soul, which I think is true with an addition: a window offers 2 views from the inside out and the outside in. It’s an entrance to connect to all that is currently present, in stillness or movement, a visual means of first contact in advance of other palpable senses. What a person sees is their perception of the world, their awareness, or conceivably their reflection of themselves based on their reaction. As Yogis we devote our concentration and Drishti to seeking an inner and outer truth looking for Divinity which is everywhere, thus seeing the world for what is really is, Divine.

The Truth Behind the Roots of Yoga

Yoga can be mistakenly associated with Hinduism, whilst the 2 bare origins rooted in India, it is important to separate this thread of perception. Religions seek to adhere to a belief structure on how to lead a life in worship of God or the Devine. Yoga is an ancient artful science steeped in rich philosophy that seeks to unearth our deepest nature through experiencing our own divinity or true-self.

The Vedas, which translate to “knowledge” or “wisdom” is a collection of four ancient sacred Sanskirt scriptures; the Rigveda, the Yajurveda, the Samaveda and the Atharvaveda. These four original Vedas are considered sacred revelations of the rishis, ancient seers. Consisting of thousands of mantras and hymns and tens of thousands more versus, premeditated to bring decree and prosperity to the devotees who chant them. Furthermore, the Vedas denotes sacrificial and ritual instructions as well as containing guidance on how to lead a better life.

It was the oldest of these Vedas, the Rigveda where the word Yoga and its root, yuj first appeared. The origination of the Vedas is believed to have stemmed from the Arya people who settled in the Indus Valley (what we now call India) between 1,800 and 1,500 B.C.E.

It was during the dusk of Vedic period, believed to be somewhere around 600 and 550 B.C.E that the Upanishads appeared. The word Upanishad, literally means “sitting near” and it is thought that the deeper spiritual inquest of the Upanishads, who would sit near a teacher to glean knowledge led to the evolutionary path of Yoga.

The Upanishads is also a collection of philosophical utterances, referred to as the Vedanta and shapes the path to self-realization and self-knowledge. It was during or slightly after this time that the legendary sage (or perhaps sages) Patanjali compiled The Yoga Sutras. These Sutras are a list of 196 aphorisms which join together yoga material throughout the ages in a systemized and concise manner which can easily be committed to memory. Designed to help a yogi to transcend the word Sutra is compiled of 2 parts, su denoting “thread” and tra signifying “to transcend”.

The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali was the most translated ancient Indian text in the medieval era and it is widely considered the foundations of Classical Yoga philosophy which we now know today.

The grace of Yoga lies in a philosophy which is open to interpretation and malleable for anyone from any culture, any age and background with a desire to better and improve one’s self.  Some may briefly walk the path, for others it is a life-long journey. It seems the many variations of Yoga which exist today, are a supporting testimony that Yoga really is for everyone. Yoga has grown with our society, it has evolved and the great thing about Yoga is that regardless of where you are in your personal journey, the path has been well trodden before. You need not walk it alone, the Yogi community is one of unification, support and infinite wisdom.