Where is your focus supposed to rest during yoga? Although the breath sets the rhythm, the physical focus point is your gaze. This is called a Drishti, something I feel can aid all yogi’s no matter how long you have been practising. One of the many benefits is that it can aid balance, for example if you are in a posture that is challenging like Warrior 3, looking down at a fixed point can settle your stance. A set gaze will not only limit distraction, it also improves physical practice by improving alignment and directing energy.
In Downward Facing Dog the Drishti is the navel, encouraging the lifting up and back of the tailbone instead of rounding the spine. In low Lunge an upward gaze lifts the chest and lengthens the spine. A focal point can also help you find your centre, finding strength within. Not only does a focus help physically aid postures but mentally it can help create a sense of calmness in an otherwise stressful (falling on your face) situation. By reminding yourself to stay focused, you can remain present, preventing the mind wandering or worse yet allow boredom to set in during your practise. This technique is also very powerful off the mat, by developing the ability to stay present in uncomfortable situations instead of simply looking away.
There are 9 Drishiti’s in yoga:
- NOSE – The space just beyond the tip of the nose. This is used most frequently and is the primary drishti in the sitting postures. Uttanasana (Standing Forward Fold) also used frequently in inversions such as Adho Mukha Vrksasana (Handstand)
- THIRD EYE – Here, eyes are halfway or fully closed and gazing toward the space between the eyebrows. Poses include Matsyasana (Fish pose), Viparita Virabhadrasana (Reverse Warrior) as well as seated meditation.
- NAVEL – The navel, also referred to as the magic circle, is the focal point for poses such as Adho Mukha Svanasasana (Downward Facing Dog).
- HAND – As practiced in poses such as Trikonasana (Extended Triangle Pose) and Utthita Parshvakonasana (Extended Side Angle) in which the hand directs the flow of energy.
- TOES – Paschimottanasana (Seated Forward Bend) and Janusirsasana (Head to Knee pose)
- SIDE RIGHT – Far to the right for example in Supta Padangusthasana (reclining head to be toe pose)
- SIDE LEFT – Generally the sideways gaze follows the direction as the head, i.e, upward, downward, etc. Practiced in twists such as Ardha Matsyendrasana and Marichyasana etc.
- THUMBS – Urdhva Hastasana (Upward Salute in Sun Salutation)
- UPWARD – Up to the sky in Virabhadrasana and Utkatasana (Warrior 1 and Chair pose). This is an inner gaze where the eyes are closed and the gaze is directed in and up toward the light of the third eye. ‘To gaze into infinity’.
“Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.”
~ Viktor E. Frankl