Nov 162015
 
drishti

Drishti – Focused Gaze in Yoga

drishti

Control of drishti, or gaze, has been taught in Yoga for thousands of years. On a simple level, drishti uses a specific gazing direction for the eyes to control attention. Focusing gaze helps in focusing mind. In every asana in yoga, students are taught to direct their gaze to one of nine specific points, but the full meaning of drishti isn’t limited to its value in asana. 

In Sanskrit, drishti means gaze; it can also mean a vision, a point of view, or intelligence and wisdom. The use of drishti in asana serves both as a training technique and as a metaphor for focusing consciousness toward a vision of oneness. Drishti organizes our perceptual apparatus to recognize and overcome the limits of ‘normal’ vision. One of the main purposes of yoga is to bring the consciousness to one point so that it isn’t constantly wandering from one thing to another. In every posture of the yoga series there is a drishti, or gaze, so that the mind remains focused and concentrated. A drishti encourages an inward looking attitude and discourages students from looking around the room or being distracted by non-yogic thoughts.

Incorporating drishtis into every posture is an advanced practice. Students usually master co-ordinated breath and movement (vinyasa) first and then gradually incorporate more bandha and drishti work into their practice. Sometimes in meditation and pranayama practices the eyes are held half-open and the gaze is turned up toward the third eye or the tip of the nose. In the Bhagavad Gita (VI.13), Krishna instructs Arjuna, “One should hold one’s body and head erect in a straight line and stare steadily at the tip of the nose.” When using the inner gaze, sometimes called Antaric Drishti, the eyelids are closed and the gaze is directed in and up toward the light of the third eye. As Iyengar says, “The closure of the eyes directs the sadhaka (practitioner) to meditate upon Him who is verily the eye of the eye… and the life of life.”

Throughout the history of yoga, clear, true perception has been both the practice and goal of yoga. In the Bhagavad Gita, Lord Krishna tells Arjuna, “You are not able to behold me with your own eyes; I give thee the divine eye, behold my Lordly yoga” (11.8). In Yoga Sutras, the classic exposition of yoga, Patanjali points out that in viewing the world, we tend not to see reality clearly, but instead get deluded by the error of false perception. This basic misidentification is called avidya (ignorance), and its counterpart, vidya, is our true identity. In Chapter II, verse 6, he says that we confuse the act of seeing with the true perceiver: purusha, the Self. He continues, in verse 17, to say that this confusion about the true relationship between the act of seeing, the object seen, and the identity of the Seer is the root cause of suffering. His cure for this suffering is to look correctly into the world around us.

Vipashyana or Vipassana

The correct use of tristhana – breath, bandha and drishti in yoga practice is said to bring us closer to reality and unleash the power of the five elements:

  • The element of earth is activated by moola bandha, producing foundation, stability and strength.
  • The element of water is found in the fluidity of flowing posture work, or vinyasa, and in the sweat produced by the practice.
  • The element of air is linked to by the continuous and uninterrupted flow of ujjayi breath in and out of the body and the feeling of lightness created by the application of bandhas.
  • The element of fire is found by connecting to the heat of the practice, particularly at manipura chakra and throughout the body.
  • The element of ether or space is found during the postures as students seek to open up the body and find new levels of stretch and flexibility.

Yoga brings about transformation on a physical, emotional, mental and energetic level. When the above elements are incorporated into a correct practice, the process of positive change starts. The positive transformation of the body and mind by yoga is seen as the fruit of practice and a reward for working with dedication and discipline at this demanding system of asana practice.

Drishti, or focused gaze, is a means for developing concentrated intention. It relates to the fifth limb of yoga (pratyahara) concerning sense withdrawal, as well as the sixth limb (dharana) relating to concentration.

Each yoga asana is associated with a particular dṛiṣhṭi. There are nine drishtis (when you count both Parshva Dṛiṣhṭis, left and right sides, as one). The practice of drishti develops concentration—and teaches you to see the world as it really is. 

Eyes are the doors which connect the inside mind to the outside world. If the eyes are totally fixed, the mind really stops; it cannot wander. The eyes are the most delicate. That is why they can be more tense than any other part, and with the eyes in tension, the whole mind is tense. The eyes are just doors to the mind. We are predominantly visual creatures. Where our eyes are directed, our attention follows. Our attention is the most valuable thing we have, and the visible world can be an addictive, over-stimulating, and spiritually debilitating lure. When we get caught up in the outer appearance of things, our prana (vitality) flows out and gets dissipated. Allowing the eyes to wander creates distractions that lead us further away from focus.

By controlling and directing the focus of eyes, and then of attention, we can control the focus of our mind.

Besides its use in asana, drishti is applied in other yogic practices. In the kriya of trataka, the eyes are held open until tears flow. This technique not only gives the eyes a wash but also challenges the student to practice overriding unconscious urges – in this case, the urge to blink.

Our eyes can only see objects in front of us that reflect the visible spectrum of light, but yogis seek to view an inner reality not normally visible. With practice, we become aware of how our brains let us see only what we want to see. Often our opinions, prejudices, and habits prevent us from seeing the reality. Drishti is a technique for seeing correctly the world around us. Used in this way, it becomes a technique for removing the ignorance that obscures this true vision, a technique that allows us to see oneness in everything.

Drishti types

Nine Types of Drishti

Angusthamadhye

For Anguṣṭhamadhye drishṭi, meaning ‘to the middle of the thumb, the practitioner looks to the thumb.

Examples of asanas which employ Aṅguṣṭhamadhye as their dṛiṣhṭi can be found in the Surya Namaskara vinyasas.

Bhrumadhye

The Bhrumadhye drishṭi, meaning ‘to the middle of the eyebrows/brow, has the gaze set at the ‘third eye’, which is right between the eyebrows. In order to do this, the eyes are closed half way. This purportedly stimulates the olfactory and optic nerves, consequently awakening the autonomic and central nervous systems. It soothes the cranial nerves and aids concentration, and helps awaken kundalini shakti.

It is advised that caution be taken as prolonged or incorrect practice may cause problems for the eye muscles or nervous system. Initial practice is often done for only seconds at a time, but is gradually increased.

An example of a vinyasa which includes the Bhrumadhye dṛiṣhṭi in its practice is Surya Namaskara.

Nasagre

The Nasagre drishṭi, meaning ‘to the tip of the nose’, has the eyes fixed on the tip of the nose. Purportedly strengthens the eye muscles.

Keep the body pose firm, in Padmasana if possible, and centre the gaze at the tip of the nose. In the later stages, it can be practised even with the closed eyes. The process of gazing at the tip of the nose without fluttering the eyelids, helps to achieve the concentration of the mind.

While learning it can be performed even for a minute or two at a stretch. Later, it may be practised for longer duration. 

This helps achieve the concentration of the brain fast and with ease.

Hastagrahe

The Hastagrahe drishti, generally meaning ‘the taking of the hand’ or ‘the putting of the hand to’, or (in the context of dṛiṣhṭi) ‘to the tips of the hand’, involves looking at the (usually extended) tips or palm of the hand.

Utthita Trikonasana, and its twisted partner Parivrtta Trikonasana are two examples of asanas which use Hastagraha dṛiṣhṭi.

Parshva

Parshva drishti, involves looking to the left or right side.

Urdhva

Urdhva drishti has the eyes pointing upwards, to the sky.

Nabhichakre

The navel is the center of focus for the Nabhichakre drishti, meaning ‘to the (magical) navel-circle’.

Adho-Mukha-Shvanasana uses the Nabhichakre drishti.

Padayoragre

Padayoragre drishti, meaning ‘to the tips of the feet’, is gazing to the toes.

Basis of Drishti

The source of drishtis in yoga is limbs 5 and 6 from the eight limbs of yoga. The 5th limb of yoga pratyahara concerns sense withdrawal. To avoid the delusion and suffering caused by preoccupation with sense objects as described in the Maitri Upanishad, sense withdrawal is practiced in order to help the practitioner become ‘centered’. According to tantric philosophy, keeping ‘centered’ madhya will eventually suspend the mind and prana, allowing recognition of bhairava, or device consciousness.

The sixth limb of yoga dharana (concentration), includes maintaining drishti during yoga practice in order to ensure dhyana (meditation) will occur.

Variation Between Styles

There may be differences between different styles regarding how drishti is practiced and which ones are used for specific asanas, however drishti is a primary part of Hatha Yoga, Gyana Yoga, Bhakti Yoga, and Raja Yoga traditions.

In Practice

As with many Yogic techniques, with drishti there is a danger of mistaking the technique for the goal. Dedicate your use of the body (including the eyes) to transcend your identification with it. So when you look at an object during your practice, don’t focus on it with a hard gaze. Instead, use a soft gaze, looking through it toward a vision of cosmic unity. Soften your focus to send your attention beyond outer appearance to inner essence.

In general, practitioners should use the various bahya (external) gazing points during more externally oriented yoga practices, including asanas, kriyas (cleansing practices), seva (the service work of karma yoga), and bhakti (devotion); use the antaric (internal) gaze to enhance contemplative and meditative practices. If you find yourself closing the eyes during any practice and focusing on the dramas or perplexities of life instead of being able to maintain a neutral, detached focus, re-establish an outer gaze. On the other hand, if the outer gaze becomes a distraction to your concentration, perhaps an inner-directed correction is necessary.

Constant application of drishti develops ekagrata, single-pointed focus. When you restrict your visual focus to one point, your attention doesn’t wander from object to object. Moreover, it becomes much easier for you to notice the internal wanderings of your attention and maintain balance in mind as well as body.

Drishti Gives The True View

A Yogi uses a vision comprised of viveka (discrimination between ‘real view’ and ‘unreal, apparent view’) and vairagya (detachment from a mistaken identification with either the instrument of seeing or that which is seen). Charged with yogic vision, we see our true Self. As we gaze at others, we perceive our own form, which is Love itself. We see their suffering as our own; our heart is filled with compassion for the struggles of all the souls. The yogic gaze emerges from an intense desire to achieve the highest goal of unitive consciousness, rather than from egoistic motives that create separation, limitation, judgment, and suffering.

Like all yogic practices, drishti uses the gifts of a human body and mind as a starting place for connecting with our full potential. When we clear our vision of the veils of habits, opinions, ideas, and their false projections about what is real and what is false, we gaze beyond outer differences toward the absolute Truth of internal oneness.

To delve deeper into this important topic in Yoga, please check different courses at SAVY. 

 Jitender K Sahdev

Dr Jitender K Sahdev

President and Director of Teaching

Please contact us to learn more about Yoga. We would love to hear any suggestions or comments that you might have. Space is limited in courses and participation will be on a first-come-first-served basis. So, respond early to participate in this exciting, life-transforming Yoga experience. 

 

Jan 102015
 
Surya Namaskar

Sun Salutations or Surya Namaskar – Yoga Fundamentals Series

SAVY Yoga has been serving the city of London and surrounding areas since 2011. To serve the people London in a better way, instead of serving some run-of-the-mill pseudo-yoga routines, we offer some very useful, true Yoga/ Pranayama routines, ranging from gentle to very challenging routines, for a beginner to an advanced student alike. Here, we bring to you a new series of classes on Yoga Fundamentals which introduce you and clarify to you the benefits of authentic traditional ashtanga Yoga.

Through demonstration, discussion and experiential movement, you will gain key understanding of proper posture and how to keep your body safe. As common sense dictates, one can function properly only if one is disease-free and is in a healthy state of body, mind and spirit. So, for us, your health and disease-free state comes first of all. We firmly believe Yoga is much beyond mere gymnastics and sauna!

London Yoga Classes at SAVY bring you the taste, values and expertise of the true traditional Ashtanga and Vinyasa Yoga from India. Inspired adherence to eight pillars or steps of yoga bestow one with a calm mind and fit body and lead one towards attaining moksha or liberation for an emancipated life. In more physical or materialistic  terms, Yoga is more than capable of keeping one physically and mentally fit and disease-free. It has become the new hot and favored way to sweat it out. Yoga Fundamentals is a step in that direction.

Sun Salutations or Surya Namaskar

Sun Salutations The Sun is the source of all energy and the supporter of all life-forms. In India, it is more than just a star and Indian culture respects and worships this powerful source of energy as a deity. Surya Namaskar or Sun Salutations, an integral part of Surya Yoga, is one way Hindus have always paid respect to the “Sun god” and in turn gain enormous health benefits. Surya Namaskar, also known in English as Sun Salutation is a well-known sequence of twelve asanas. The obvious characteristic of Surya Namaskar is the fact that it exercises the entire body. The Sun Salutation is a graceful sequence of twelve postures performed as one continuous exercise. Each position is reverse of the one before, stretching the body in a different way and alternatively expanding and contracting the chest to regulate the breathing. Sun Salutations or Surya Namaskar is yoga postures, breathing, mindfulness, meditation, bandhas, gaze, alignment etc – all rolled in one! It’s considered THE MOST COMPLETE EXERCISE ROUTINE! Sun Salutations or  Surya Namaskar has many benefits and if done regularly can not only help you lose flab but can also help you combat diseases. Here are a few benefits of this asana.

  • Surya Namaskar, or Sun Salutations, ideally done facing the early morning rising sun, helps our body to soak in the benefits of the rays of the sun.
  • This is the best and most complete series of asanas to improve lymphatic circulation and drainage. Hence, it improves body immunity.
  • Regular practice of this series of asanas can also help you lose the excess belly fat.
  • The postures in Surya Namaskar stretch our muscles and help make our body very flexible.
  • The moves and postures of the asana help all our internal organs function better — the various poses regulate our blood flow, benefit the digestive system and makes it more efficient.
  • It helps combat insomnia as it relaxes the body and calms the mind.
  • It helps regulate menstrual cycles and makes childbirth easier.
  • This is known to facilitate blood circulation and thereby help hair growth and prevent hair problems.
  • It reduces anxiety and restlessness and enhances our strength and vitality.
  • Surya Namaskar benefits not just adults, but kids as well.
  • From yoga point of view, it acts on Solar Plexus and regular practice of Surya Namaskar increases its size, hence increasing awareness and ‘gut feeling’ or intuition.
  • It acts on and balances all chakras and helps you achieve complete health.
  • The back and forth, up and down movements in Sun Salutations are fun and offer the opportunity to move playfully in the practice.
  • They warm up the body for the practice of more asanas.
  • Surya Namaskar improves cardiovascular function. Some studies have revealed that sun salutations provided the best overall benefit for the heart, specifically the left ventricle. For excellence of health, the left ventricle must relax very rapidly after each contraction and then again contract rapidly and forcibly, to push blood into aorta. Sun Salutations improve this function.
  • They bring the mind to a calm, serene yogic state.
  • They help to overcome motivation issues.
  • Sun Salutation is a very complete exercise.  If you only have fifteen or twenty minutes to practice, doing Sun Salutations alone properly cover almost all the benefits of yoga postures.
  • They keep your skills sharp.

The traditional format of Sun Salutations being taught at SAVY Studios helps you derive maximum benefits from this very useful yogic exercise. One feels so alive after just a few rounds of this!

You are most welcome to  learn this routine and stay healthy.

This series will be held every month. Here are the details of the workshop:

    • Location:
      • Physical Location : SAVY International North London Studio at 163 Concord Road London ON N6G 3H9, Or
      • Online – You’ll be sent routine for each day.
    • Formats: 3-Class Series
    • Batches: One batch in the month it is offered.
    • Days & Time:
      • Group Sessions: Fridays, from 09:30 AM – 10:30 AM, or
      • Private Sessions: By appointment
    • Cost:
      • Group Sessions: $150 for all 3 group sessions (+HST), or
      • Private Sessions: $499 for all 3 private sessions (+HST) 
    • Commitment:
      • A firm commitment to complete the program without missing any class (except in an emergency).
      • At the end of the one month program, incorporate the techniques learned in your practice. You may also sign-up for another month. Continue routine Yoga classes if you are already coming, or join classes at SAVY Studio.
    • Components of Program:
      • Surya Namaskar
      • Mantra
      • Pearls of Ancient Wisdom

    The same program is also taught on one-on-one basis and online.

    Please book your appointment for ‘Meet and Greet’.

    Please check the exact schedule and time below.

    Through demonstration, discussion and experiential movement, you will gain key understanding of proper postures and how to keep your body safe. As common sense dictates, one can function properly only if one is disease-free and is in a healthy state of body, mind and spirit. So, for us, your health and disease-free state comes first of all. We firmly believe Yoga is much beyond mere gymnastics and sauna!

Established benefits of Yoga:

  • Improved General Health
  • Longevity
  • Anxiety Relief
  • Stronger Bones
  • Healthier Heart
  • Healthy Weight
  • Lower Stress Levels
  • Increased Flexibility
  • Lower Blood Pressure
  • Improved Lung Capacity
  • Improved Brain Function
  • Greater Sense of Balance
  • Better mind-body connexion
  • Better Sexual Function  & Libido
  • Lower Blood Sugar Levels in Diabetics
  • Relief from Chronic Back Pain and Neck Pain
  • Better over-all quality of life & much more…

The salient features of London Yoga Classes of SAVY Healing Yoga are:

  • Comprehensive, authentic, world class teaching and knowledge-base in all aspects of Yoga
  • Authentic Ashtanaga and Vinyasa Yoga training based on true, traditional Yoga from India
  • Asanas, Pranayama, Pratyahara, Dhyana, Kriyas. Chakras, Kundalini Awakening, Shatkarma, Marma, Mantra etc
  • Clear, concise, to-the-point instruction and individualized care
  • One of the most qualified, experienced, international faculty, well-trained in India with excellent teaching skills
  • Yoga School with highest ranking of RYS 500 – we train yoga teachers up to the highest rank
  • Yoga Therapy services for all diseases available
  • Wonderful, knowledgeable, stable, regular, supportive, warm, welcoming yoga community
  • Unique, specialized yoga classes – Sukshma Yoga, Vinyasa Yoga, Deep Stretch Yoga, Yoga for Face, Meditation Classes, Sun and Moon Salutations, Pranayama etc
  • Workshops on interesting Yoga topics from time to time
  • Delve deep into the field of Yoga – Keep learning and sharing knowledge
  • Suitable time of classes
  • Small size of even group classes
  • Small Class Yoga for smaller groups
  • Private sessions also available
  • Decent studio  and studio setting – enjoy the character and warmth of the Victorian heritage building
  • Authentic Yoga at reasonable rates

Learn all that directly under expert guidance of one of the most qualified faculty in the world! 

Please fill up your Registration and Waiver Form through London Yoga Classes page. Sign up today and live life to your full potential. Call or email for any inquiries.

Sign up today and live life to your full potential.

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