Drishti: What Is It and Why Is It So Important?

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My mission statement is to make yoga and healthy living relatable and approachable for all. I recently had an idea to start a column on my blog where the content aims to "decode" some of the terms you hear in yoga. I've realized that the vocabulary and Sanskrit throw some people off, and since they don't know what these terms mean, they lose interest or are afraid of yoga. But yoga shouldn't be scary, intimidating or unrelateable (I've even written about that here in Yoga: Where To Start?). Instead, it should be meaningful, inclusive, and (hopefully) a really fun never-ending personal journey. Therefore, in this new category of my blog, I'll do my best to take some of these terms / items / chants and explain them. I'm starting with the term drishti, one of my favorite words. It's really fun to say. If you’ve ever been in a yoga class and heard the instructor mention your drishti and immediately thought “Uh oh. I didn't bring a drishti.”... then this post is for you. It sounds mysterious, but when you begin to really understand what drishti refers to, it can revolutionize your yoga practice.

So first off, what is it?
The word drishti refers to our gaze during poses. That's it.Why is it so important?
When we work to increase the
quality of our drishti, we develop deep mental focus, concentration, and can even add strength to our physical yoga poses. In essence, if we can focus our gaze mentally, we find a calm place within the pose where we can truly feel the pose, feel all of the muscles working to support us, and feel the strength we possess to be there. We are actually caught in the act of yoga itself...uniting body, mind, and breath, and being completely present in that moment. We find a peaceful empowerment in the pose instead of struggle. How appealing is it to just be alive and peaceful in what you're presently doing when we live in a world of overstimulation and busyness?!?

Ok, sounds good! How can I develop my own drishti?
Glad you asked! In order to sharpen your gaze and mental focus in a pose, keep the following things in mind...
• It’s not a physical thing... no need to squint your eyes or scrunch up your beautiful face. Instead, think about it this way: it’s a mental sharpening of focus. You may very well need to relax your face.
• Try gazing at something that is still.

• Use your breath to help you stay mindful of what all is physically going on in the pose. Focus on the inhale, then focus on the exhale. Let that set a pace for you.
• Remember the purpose on the quest for drishti: integrating body, mind, and breath.

Let’s use Warrior II (shown above) as an example, since it’s a common pose to link with drishti.

When you’re in Warrior II, your gaze is directly over your leading hand. Learn to look past your leading hand while focusing your mind on: the foundation you’ve set in your feet, the legs working, the hips opening, the abs engaging, the spine lengthening, and and the arms actively reaching in opposite directions. FEEL it. Then, focus on your breath….make it steady, flowing and full. Relax your face. Notice the peace in the pose, even if it’s a challenging pose. Try to focus on the strength and peace of it all woven together and find empowerment from that.

Empowerment is what drishti gives me personally.

I had heard the word and was very familiar with the concept of drishti for years, but it never resonated with me until I studied in India. While in India, our instructor constantly spoke of it while we were practicing. After practicing a couple times with him, it suddenly clicked with me and resonated deep down. I was in challenging poses. But I was still able to feel peaceful. I was utilizing my gaze and my breath to fully wake up my mind to the pose, and fully engage my body. I wasn’t thinking about what to eat for lunch, the email I forgot to send, what time it was back home, or anything else….I was completely alive to the moment I was in. It was transforming for my practice, and for me, it has never been the same.

After all, that’s one of THE major things that yoga is all about: putting your mind, body and breath back together and being alive in the present moment. What a shame when we in the West reduce it to just "exercise."

Sometime I think of yoga as a big toolbox. There are many tools in that box, such as breathing techniques, physical postures, meditation, ethical guidelines, chants, mudras, chakras, etc. Not all of these call to every single person, and that's ok. Think of the drishti as just another tool. It may resonate with you, and it may not. Try it out the next time you're practicing. Find your drishti, regain the breath, feel the strength and peace in the pose and calm the mind. Wake up your own power. Don’t be discouraged if it doesn’t come naturally to you. It took me years. Yet another reason we call it yoga "practice."

The old saying is right. “Energy flows where attention goes…”

​Love & Light.

Like this new "Decoding Yoga" column? What would you like to learn about? Email me and let me know. 🙂

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