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What is Drishti?

baptiste yoga beginners yoga what is drishti what is yoga why yoga yoga for beginners Sep 14, 2022

 What is Drishti?

Drishti is a Sanskrit term that refers to a ‘focused gaze.’ Drishti comes from the Sanskrit root verb ‘dṛṣ’ which means “to see.” Drishti is an important principle when practicing yoga, but also a great life strategy for focusing the mind and calming the body.

In yoga class, I love to cue a specific drishti point. I often suggest a place to focus the eyes so that students can settle on one unmoving point. My teacher, Baron Baptiste, says “wandering eyes equals wandering mind.” Learning to place the eyes on one unmoving point allows the mind to settle and the body to relax.

When students are new to yoga practice, it’s common to look around and notice what everyone else in the class is doing. On the one hand, this is how we learn, and on the other hand, it’s how we become distracted. Especially when we’re new at something, it becomes easy to compare ourselves to other people and get too focused on what the pose looks like. In the Baptiste methodology, teachers don’t practice on the mat with their students. This is to reduce distraction and allow students to settle into the pose with their own gaze, rather than being too focused on the teacher and what the pose looks like in their body. When I first started practicing yoga, watching the teacher practice was often a barrier for me. As a person in a big body, I never looked like the yoga teacher and therefore believed I was always doing it wrong.

There is something precious about using my words powerful so that students can focus on themselves. As soon as a teacher begins modeling the pose with their body, most students will default to what’s happening in front of them, i.e. the teacher's practice. When teaching new students, I let them know it’s less important how it looks and more important how they feel while they’re doing it. I find this takes off some of the pressure of being new. It’s hard to learn new things. If we’re visually comparing ourselves to someone who has been practicing for years, then it diminishes the newcomers practice.

Drishti is a yogic principle that is so important, it's a skill that we can cultivate on and off the mat. I find that anytime I have to do something challenging, it helps to focus my eyes. The eyes are the window to the world. As an able bodied seeing person, It’s how I perceive the whole world. The eyes are often the first sense to engage with outside stimulus. I see something long before I can smell, taste, or touch it. Our eyes can generally set the stage for how we feel and how we perceive what’s happening in our direct eyeline.

A wandering mind can cause disengagement and the generation of thoughts. When we’re practicing yoga, it is our goal to be present. Drishti is a tool that can physically engage us in the present moment. Drishti isn’t staring, but seeing. We aren’t staring off into space, we are seeing what is right in front of us. This becomes a strategy for accessing the present moment. Oftentimes in meditation I teach students about anchors to the present moment. Anchors, just like they do, keep us from drifting away. Although we may still drift, the anchor calls us back to the present moment. Drishti serves as an anchor. Even as our mind wanders, we can call ourselves back to what we can physically see and experience in the present moment.

What do you think of drishti? Is this a principle you’ve heard before or have practiced in your yoga practice? Sometimes I like to close my eyes when I practice, but even then, I’m being intentional with my eyes. Closing the eyes or opening the eyes can feel great during practice. Whichever you choose, do so with intention. When set our attention, we create intention.

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