Drishti is focal point that is applied during Dhyana (meditation) or while holding a yoga Asana (Posture).
Drishti is associated with limbs number 5, 6 and 7 of the 8 limbs of yoga; Pratyahara (Withdrawal of the Senses); Dharana (Concentration); Dhyana (Meditation).The ancient text, The Maitri Upanishad, describes the process of turning one's attention inward (antara) to “center” the body and mind so that one can avoid the suffering caused by the distraction of the objects around us. This process of concentration and withdrawal of the senses is described again in the philosophical text, The Yoga Sutra, as part of the eight limbs of yoga. The 6th limb Dharana the practice of maintaining a drishti during a yoga practice as a tool of concentration is described as a way to channel the concentration and achieve meditation (Dhyana-a one pointed focus). Exactly where to gaze for external (bahya) focal points may vary from style to style. The most specific drishti can be found as part of the Ashtanga Yoga system as developed by Pattabhi Jois (1915-2009)
Where our attention goes our energy flows! We humans are by nature visual creature. Overstimulation of our vision keeps us continually distracted and off balance physically, mentally and emotionally. Keep our focus on a non moving point can greatly aid our ability to find physical stability within our posture. This is clearly noticeable in postures such as handstand and other inversions. Try closing your eyes in tree pose and the importance of our vision becomes clearly evident.
When using a drishti is is extremely important to keep the eyes soft and avoid strain.
9 Drishti of Ashtanga Yoga
Angusthamadhye (En-gust humud je) look to the thumb
Examples: Sūrya Namaskāra, Vinyasas; Ūrdhva Vṛkṣāsana, Utkaṭāsana, and Vīrabhadrāsana
- Lengthens the front of the throat
- Strengthens the back of the neck
- Lifts the internal energy upwards
Bhrumadhye (Bhruh medh je) look to the eyebrows (middle of the brow or third eye). To achieve this mudra the eyes are soft and partially closed.
- Aids Concentration
- Stimulates the Optic Nerves
Examples: Certain Styles of Meditation; There are some Sūrya Namaskāra traditions that apply Bhrūmadhye drishti onUttānāsana, Ūrdhva Mukha Śvānāsana, Adho Mukha Svānāsana.
Nasagre (Nah-suh gree) look to the tip of the nose.
- Strengthens the eye muscles
Hastagrah (Hus-stah-grah) look to the tip of the hand or the palm
- Continues the rotation of the spine all the way through the neck in twists
- Turns the energy of the pose upward
Parshva (Parshh -vuh) looking to the left or right side.
- Stretches and strengthens the neck muscles
Examples: Utthita Pārśvasahita, Marīcyāsana C,and Marīcyāsana D
Urdhv (Oordh-wa) looking upwards, eyes looking to the sky
Lifts the energy upwards without straining the neck
(Students may confuse looking with the eyes with tilting the whole head upward.)
Examples: Upaviṣṭha Koṇāsana and Ubhaya Pādānguṣṭhāsana
Nābhicakr (Knob-He-Chu-kra) look to the navel center
- Creates length in the back of the neck
- Can add posterior stretch to various forward folds
Padayoragre Padah-your-gree look to the tips of the feet or to gaze to the toes.
- helps to elongate the spine (lengthening the belly and engaging the muscles of the back)
Remember: Where our attention goes our energy flows!