This evening I attended a tech session focused on drishti, which is where to put your gaze in various yoga poses. In the classes I have attended up to this point, drishti has been talked about and used largely as a way to help keep the body in proper alignment as people move through various asanas. And tonight we talked about that aspect of drishti as well – we discussed where a person should look in a variety of different poses, and how proper drishti keeps the body correctly “stacked” (i.e., head stacked above shoulders, shoulders stacked above hips, hips above knees, knees above ankles, etc.). But this evening, we also spent a considerable amount of time talking about a second element of drishti: how to use it to cultivate a meditative, calm, inner stillness in a yoga practice.
After all, authentic yoga is a spiritual practice, with over half of the focus dedicated to meditation. Physical movement represents only 1/8th of the total yoga system; meditation occupies four sections of the yoga path. Drishti can help with the body/posture piece of the practice, certainly; but it can also play an important role in the meditative elements of the system, too.
So during tonight’s asana series, I intentionally used drishti as completely and consistently as I could. I used it to help keep my spine in alignment with my head, and my arms and legs in alignment with my core, but I also used it to stay internally focused, and truly present (instead of looking around the room, and/or lost in my thoughts – as can often be the case when I attend a yoga class).
It was amazing. For the first time ever, I felt the meditative aspect of yoga. I meditate every morning, so I’m not ignorant of what meditation feels like; but up to this point, I have really only meditated while sitting still, eyes closed. Tonight, I experienced moving meditation; meditation grounded in a different type and quality of breath-focus from the method I usually employ… and it was amazing. I was able to focus completely on me, and not distractions around me (in this case, the other students in the room). I was able to focus on me, but in a kind, compassionate way; not from an “ego”-based place. And I was able to feel deep peace and calm, even as I entered and engaged in physically difficult postures. Wow.
I was also able to experience how proper drishti made difficult poses easier for me. As I have mentioned in previous posts, balance is one area of yoga (life) where I still struggle; but tonight, when I watched my “drishti line”, I found much more stability in a challenging one-legged pose than I have ever felt before. Phenomenal.
Over the course of this teacher training program thus far, there have been a few sessions that I feel have given me breakthrough moments – moments that have permanently changed my yoga practice. (Truly and sincerely.) I think tonight was one of those sessions.