Sure, sometimes we have so many things to work on in our yoga practice (and in our lives) that adding more might seem overwhelming. Rather than setting a New Year’s Resolution to do a one-armed handstand, consider these three simple but mighty practices that will change the way you see your yoga practice and the world around you.
- Drishti: single point of focus.
This refers to our gaze in each posture, and it’s important because it helps with focus and balance, but it’s also the gateway into game changers like dharana (concentration) and pratyahara (sensory withdrawal). Just like asana, it takes practice and time to develop and maintain drishti (gaze), but if you do, you’ll also gain rock solid concentration on and off the mat.
The first step to drishti is a soft gaze. You might hear in class to gaze over your middle finger in virabhadrasana II (warrior 2), then “1000 miles past it”. Looking far off takes whatever is in your immediate vicinity out of your focus, and decreases your chances of distraction. A hard gaze means staring at something, a soft gaze is staring past it.
There are 8 major drishtis that correspond with categories of asana. We’ll start with three that come up frequently that you could easily start practicing next time you’re on the mat:
Angusthamadhye: to the thumb, or the middle of the thumb. It’s basically gazing up when your arms are over your head, especially in the sun salutation poses. In urdva hastasana (there are different names for this, standing up with arms overhead), virabhadrasana I (warrior 1), and utkatasana (chair pose), either gaze at your thumbs where they meet (if your palms are touching) or in the space between your thumbs (if your arms are shoulder width apart).
Bhrumadhye: to the middle of the brow. It sounds crazy, but it’s just as it says, you gaze up towards your eyebrows and in towards the bridge of your nose. It takes some practice, and sometimes it feels strenuous, but just like you have to build your leg and core muscles, your eyes need some time to adjust to a new workload. Practice this drishti on the inhale transitions and postures of sun salutations- halfway lift/half flat back or urdhva mukha svanasana (upward facing dog) or bhujangasana (cobra).
Nasagre: to the tip of the nose. This is the antithesis of bhrumadhye, so you’ll practice using it on the exhale transitions and it’s also awkward and cross eyed. Folding forward into uttanasana (standing forward fold), lowering through chaturanga, and pressing back to adho mukha svanasana (down dog).
Remember, you’re not going to feel comfortable using drishti right away, and it will take some work to bring it into your practice, but you’ll start feeling more focused immediately.