The meaning of “drishti” in Sanskrit is gaze. Drishti determines where to focus our gaze during the practice of each asana. By concentrating our sight on a particular point, we perform the asanas in a much more intense way, avoiding getting distracted by the people around.
The gaze plays an essential role in the correct execution of a posture. We are used to associate yoga with breathing and closed eyes for a better internalization of the exercise. However, the importance of the gaze in our practice is crucial.
WHAT ARE THE DRISHTIS?
The drishtis or gazes refer to nine directions or points towards which the yogi directs the eyes while performing the asanas.
Each posture relates to a drishti. The correct practise of the drishtis helps us to develop our consciousness, strengthen our concentration and, over the time, teaches us how to control our mind. By focusing our sight on a specific point, the brain conducts our mental activity in the most appropriate direction for each asana to be practiced.
The simple act of gazing at a particular point allows our energy to be focused in that specific direction. Moving our eyes from side to side distracts the mind and moves its further away from the union with the body.
The gaze is usually directed towards where we orientate our trunk or arms. For instance, in most of the forward push-ups in seated position we look at our toes. This drives to lengthen the front of the body more than if we look at the navel, which would make us round the back.
THE NINE DRISHTIS:
1.- The tip of the nose - Nasagrai drishti
2.- The thumbs of the hands - Angushta drishti
3.- The third eye - Brumadya drishti
4.- The navel - Nabi drishti
5.- Upwards, to the sky, as if looking at the infinite - Urvda drishti
6.- The hands - Hastagra drishti
7.- Toes - Padagra drishti
8 and 9.- Left and right - Parshva drishti
WHY ARE THE DRISHTIS SO IMPORTANT FOR YOGA PRACTICE?
If our sight gets distracted by the external visual world around us, our attention is unfocussed, inducing to an exhausting practice instead of a revitalizing experience.
A drishti can help us to achieve concentration and peace. That is why the drishti of each posture is essential to understand the asana itself. Without a point to look at, the position is incomplete.
Our sight must be relaxed and light, with a certain perspective, as if looking through the object which we direct our eyes to. The act of looking at something is not an imposition of the mind in the eyes. The drishtis contribute to reduce the tension rather than increase it.
IS IT POSIBLE TO PRACTICE YOGA WITH THE EYES CLOSED?
What we perceive through the eyes catches much of our attention. In order to better understand how much energy we spend in the visual world, it is really stimulating to perform some poses with our eyes closed. Without visual information to process, our eyes release a large amount of energy that can be used in the posture, allowing us to keep the same position for longer, provided that we do not need the visual information to do the exercise, as in the postures of balance.
Remember that the main goal is to look inside us. To develop this inner gaze, to bring the senses inward is pratyahara. To dissuade our senses from the outside is to accept that the external stimulation will never satisfy the source of desires that arise from the mind. To cultivate this thought is to realize that joy is within us.
Have a good practice and a good life!