What is drishti? Drishti is a single-pointed gaze, a concentrated still point that we cultivate with our eyes in yoga. When we’re standing powerfully in warrior pose, part of what makes this asana so poignant is our drishti, our yogic gaze.
Where Attention Goes, Energy Flows
The discipline of our drishti helps us become more focused yogis, so that we can see things for what they really are, without adding our sometimes wild and crazy stories to the greater truth of things. This concentrated focus creates a strong sense of being fully present in the moment, with the strength and attitude of a warrior.
Wherever our attention goes, energy flows. You might say that your attention is one of the most important and essential characteristics you have as a human being, for you can create great things with a positive quality of attention. Cultivating our yogic gaze helps us cultivate a strong attention and intention, which is sorely needed in a modern world so filled with distractions, overly stimulating gadgets, news stories and all the material goods we’re told we must have in order to live a happy and fulfilling life.
As yogis, we must cultivate our drishti to stay on track, to cut out the clutter from our mind and sharpen our awareness. If you take just one hour to watch a program on television, you know just how many ads the media has got us entranced in. It’s difficult not to become mesmerized by the visual stimuli of commercials and advertisements. Visual images are so powerful: What we see in our mind’s eye can determine where our attention goes and, therefore, where our energy flows.
A strong drishti, which we cultivate every day on our yoga mat if we choose to, brings this reality to our attention. Directing our gaze to a point of stillness helps us stay centered. It helps us stay focused on the task at hand. When the gaze is darting here, there and everywhere, we lose balance. We literally fall out of tree pose or forget what we were doing. Then we’re off on a thought train or caught up in what’s happening in the external world. (Learn more in 6 Tips to Maintaining Balance on the Mat.)
A Drishti for Every Pose
The beautiful thing about yoga and the various styles, such as Ashtanga, is that there’s a set teaching in each pose as to where the yogi should direct their drishti. For instance, in upward-facing dog, we set the drishti at the tip of our nose. In seated forward bends, the drishti is at the tips of our toes. In triangle pose, we gaze up at our outstretched hand. Otherwise, we gaze downward toward the toes. Directing our gaze grounds us in the present moment. We become less distracted and our yoga practice becomes more effective because we’re moving our prana to the places it needs to go, without letting it leach out. (Learn more in Getting Grounded: What It Means and How to Get It.)
Next time you find yourself on your mat, try setting an intention to really use your yogic gaze during your practice. You’ll be amazed at how much better you feel after doing a full practice using your drishti the entire time. You might want to play with seeing what it’s like to allow the drishti to wander. You may discover that by letting your drishti roam, without a fixed focal point, you get swept up with whatever’s in front of you, reacting to life rather than being your own intuitive guide. This is a fun way to illustrate just how big a difference holding your gaze steady can make, not just in your yoga practice, but in life off the mat as well.
Improve Your Focus, Improve Your Life
It’s believed that if we don’t increase our concentration with drishti, our life force energy will slowly seep out of us, and we’ll not have the vitality necessary to thrive as we walk our yogic path. How will we ever get anything done if we spend the precious moments of our lives scanning Facebook, Instagram and Twitter? How will we lead lives of clarity if we’re forever caught up in news feeds and advertisements on the Internet and television. We live in a very visual world that’s highly manipulative. We must cultivate a strong drishti to stay on the yogic path, stand strong and know who we truly are.
By keeping your drishti strong you can overcome any obstacle. You’ll be more focused and attentive in your relationships, able to have conversations without being easily distracted. Your present moment awareness will increase the more you use your drishti. We know that the present is all there really is and cultivating this keen sense of mindfulness will enrich your life for the better. (Read on in What Yoga Teaches Me About Life.)