Tag Archives: David Life

drishti

While a drishti can be described as a fixed focus, the eyes should be soft as if looking through the object of the gaze. It is a transcendent and unforced awareness that looks beyond the surface.

When we get caught up in the outer appearance of things, our prana (vitality) flows out of us as we scan the stimulating sights. Allowing the eyes to wander creates distractions that lead us further away from yoga. To counteract these habits, control and focus of the attention are fundamental principles in yoga practice. When we control and direct the focus, first of the eyes and then of the attention, we are using the yogic technique called drishti.

The increasing popularity and influence of the Ashtanga Vinyasa method of yoga, taught for more than 60 years by Sri K. Pattabhi Jois, have introduced drishti to thousands of practitioners. On a simple level, drishti technique uses a specific gazing direction for the eyes to control attention. In every asana in Ashtanga, students are taught to direct their gaze to one of nine specific points.

In Urdhva Mukha Svanasana (Upward-Facing Dog Pose), for instance, we gaze at the nose tip: Nasagrai Drishti. In meditation and in Matsyasana (Fish Pose), we gaze toward the Ajna Chakra, the third eye: Naitrayohmadya (also called Broomadhya) Drishti. In Adho Mukha Svanasana (Downward-Facing Dog Pose), we use Nabi Chakra Drishti, gazing at the navel. We use Hastagrai Drishti, gazing at the hand, inTrikonasana (Triangle Pose). In most seated forward bends, we gaze at the big toes: Pahayoragrai Drishti. When we twist to the left or right in seated spinal twists, we gaze as far as we can in the direction of the twist, using Parsva Drishti. In Urdhva Hastasana, the first movement of the Sun Salutation, we gaze up at the thumbs, using Angusta Ma Dyai Drishti. In Virabhadrasana I (Warrior Pose I), we use Urdhva Drishti, gazing up to infinity. In every asana, the prescribed drishti assists concentration, aids movement, and helps orient the pranic (energetic) body.

The full meaning of drishti isn’t limited to its value in asana. In Sanskrit, drishti can also mean a vision, a point of view, or intelligence and wisdom. The use of drishti in asana serves both as a training technique and as a metaphor for focusing consciousness toward a vision of oneness. Drishti organizes our perceptual apparatus to recognize and overcome the limits of “normal” vision.

Our eyes can only see objects in front of us that reflect the visible spectrum of light, but yogis seek to view an inner reality not normally visible. We become aware of how our brains only let us see what we want to see—a projection of our own limited ideas. Often our opinions, prejudices, and habits prevent us from seeing unity. Drishti is a technique for looking for the Divine everywhere—and thus for seeing correctly the world around us. Used in this way, drishti becomes a technique for removing the ignorance that obscures this true vision, a technique that allows us to see God in everything.

Drishti—The True View

Throughout the history of yoga, clear, true perception has been both the practice and goal of yoga. In the Bhagavad Gita, Lord Krishna tells his disciple, Arjuna, “You are not able to behold me with your own eyes; I give thee the divine eye, behold my Lordly yoga” (11.8). In the classic exposition of yoga, the Yoga Sutra, Patanjali points out that in viewing the world, we tend not to see reality clearly, but instead get deluded by the error of false perception. In Chapter II, verse 6, he says that we confuse the act of seeing with the true perceiver: purusha, the Self. He continues, in verse 17, to say that this confusion about the true relationship between the act of seeing, the object seen, and the identity of the Seer is the root cause of suffering. His cure for this suffering is to look correctly into the world around us.

How are we to do this? By maintaining a prolonged, continuous, single-pointed focus on the goal of yoga: samadhi, or complete absorption into purusha. The practice of drishti gives us a technique with which to develop single-pointed concentration of attention. The hatha yogi uses a kind of “x-ray vision” comprised of viveka (discrimination between “real view” and “unreal, apparent view”) and vairagya (detachment from a mistaken identification with either the instrument of seeing or that which is seen). This basic misidentification is called avidya (ignorance), and its counterpart, vidya, is our true identity.

Like all yogic practices, drishti uses the blessed gifts of a human body and mind as a starting place for connecting to our full potential—the wellspring that is the source of both body and mind. When we clear our vision of the covering of habits, opinions, ideas, and their projections about what is real and what is false, we gaze beyond outer differences toward the absolute Truth.

 

Excerpts from Yoga Journal Article See More Clearly By Practicing Drishti by David Life, the cofounder of Jivamukti Yoga

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yoga practice as a container

One of the pillars of a strong yoga practice is consistency. With regular, or even daily, practice, the benefits of yoga are longer lasting and more deeply felt. Even so, aside from the select few who have devoted their lives to the practice, most people have multiple priorities—from kids to work to busy social lives—and sometimes it’s their yoga practice that slips through the cracks. As a teacher, one of the yogic gifts you can pass on to your students is showing how the practice can help with these other demands-and how it could become as essential for students as brushing their teeth.

David Life, cofounder of Jivamukti Yoga in New York City, says the way to bring students into the fold during particularly trying times is to offer a practice that’s meaningful and connected: “It has to be topical at any point in time. Yoga shouldn’t be abstract. It should focus on common difficulties.”

Students may have all sorts of external reasons to skip their practice, notes Life, and you can acknowledge those things directly and openly in your classes. “Yes,” he says, “holidays [take people’s attention], but so do the war, elections, political issues, and community issues.” But those things can be brought into your classes as well. Then, Life says, “people come back to class because every time they do, it’s directly applicable to the mind fluctuations they’re going through at that time. It’s essential for people to see a relevancy, for people to go to a yoga class that’s beyond getting a workout.”

Yoga teacher Tias Little agrees. “The practice becomes a container for the way we live our lives,” he says. “I really try to tie it into the time we’re living in now, try to make it contemporary and related to our culture.” Little is based Santa Fe, New Mexico, where he cofounded the YogaSource studio with his wife, Surya. Little says he’ll often use his classes to “have people reflect on the way they are with their families, their jobs, their careers, and have the practice be the foundation from which they live their lives.”

Excerpt from Yoga Journal Article Keeping Students Motivated by By Rachel Brahinsky