Pay Attention!

How the drishti (gaze point) in yoga can dramatically change your experiences in life.

Gaze point

I’m sure you have heard this often enough, especially when you were at school. If it wasn’t you, it would have been one of your classmates. The ever wandering focus which made it difficult to concentrate. Humans are predominantly visual, we are distracted by things we see. Where our eyes go, our attention follows. The outside world is ultra stimulating and addictive; If you don’t believe me, just look at the adverts we are bombarded with every day and tell me people aren’t influenced by their vision. We become mesmerised by the constant stimuli we receive. Every time our attention moves, our energy moves with it. It becomes scattered when we mentally flit from one thing to another. The vitality of our life force gradually seeps out when we are seduced by so much stimulation , creating stress and even ill health.

Drishti is actually a science of eye focus. The word is Sanskrit and means “to perceive” or “pure seeing.” Drishti trains not just the eyes but the focus of the brain through the eyes. It assists the mind in focus and directs the life force energy or Prana, within the body. When our eyes are distracted through our senses, it drags our mind and energy out of the body and scatters it aimlessly, wasting what could be used in a powerful way towards the present moment and the task in hand. The eyes can be thought of as a doorway to the mind, if the gaze is fixed, the mind does not wander. One’s attention is hugely important, it is an essential human characteristic, we are able to create great things with a quality of attention which is definitely something we need in this modern world.

In a yoga practice, different yoga poses have different drishti’s or gaze points. The drishti is a soft focused gaze which draws the attention to a point and beyond, giving something for the mind to focus and concentrate on.This stops the eyes from darting around (you know, out of the window, the clock, someones yoga clothes, bodies in the class, fluff on your mat) and distracting you from the moment. There are nine different drishti points in yoga to help you concentrate in whichever pose you are in.

Here are the nine drishti’s and an example of when you would use them :

The tip of the nose, known as Nasagrai drishti, used in upward facing dog pose

The third eye or space between the brows, known as Broomadhya drishti, used in matsyasana (Fish pose)

The navel, known as Nabi chakra drishti, used in downward facing dog pose

The hands or fingertips, known as Hastagrai drishti, used in Trikonasana (triangle pose)

The toes, known as Padhayoragrai drishti, used in seated forward bends

Twisting to the left, known as parsva drishti, used in seated spinal twists to the left

Twisting to the right, known as parsva drishti, used in seated spinal twists to the right

The thumbs, known as Angust Ma Dyai drishti, used in warrior 1

Up to the sky, gazing to infinity, known as Urdhva drishti, used in half moon pose. It is also known as antara drishti when it is done with the eyes closed and directed upwards towards the third eye or brow space where it can enhance your meditation.

The drishti in practice is about concentration and focus, a fixed gaze can bring stability and balance in both mind and body, especially in a tricky pose. Using drishti can exercise the eye muscles and increase blood flow to the optic nerve, it helps to align your head and neck in poses and sometimes even strengthen the neck.

In life however, drishti can help you to “mind your own business”, instead of being embroiled in other people’s. When we see others and compare ourselves with them, we become dissatisfied, we lose our sense of self worth, we judge and create a veil between “us and them”. The word drishti, like most of the yoga teachings, has many layers. Apart from being an external gaze point, it can also mean “a vision”, “a point of view”, “intelligence” or “wisdom”. What we see with our eyes is limited to what our eyes perceive. This can be distorted or complete illusion. With this compromised view on life it brings prejudice, bad habits and patterns and prevents us from seeing the connection and unity in all that exists. In the deeper layers of drishti, we learn to see life as it really is, it removes our ignorance and allows us to see our true self, it shows us we are as others are and it brings with it great compassion.

There is a quote by Sri. T. Krishnamacharya which says, “Yoga is a process of replacing old patterns with new and more appropriate ones.” Drishti then, can be seen to bring not only good eyesight but also good insight. It helps us to withdraw the senses, the ones which distract us. When you pay full attention, everything else disappears and you are left with peace and calm. Our focus enables us to eliminate distractions and develop our inner wisdom. Drishti is not just about sight but about perception and understanding the lessons behind our lives. If you choose your gaze point wisely, you can wake up to what you are really seeing, what it tells you about yourself and what choices you make as a result.

You can ask yourself the question, “Who is it that is gazing and what have I learned?”