How many times have we not surprised ourselves while executing asanas in yoga classes looking around – at the graceful silhouette of the colleague in front or at the clock that ticks on the wall – instead of being centered in the heart and with attention inside?
To help those who have such problems, there is a yogic technique called drishti (or the method of looking to a target point, as focused as possible). This technique can help us withdraw our attention determinedly to a certain point, for firm and continuous focus of attention.
By practicing drishti, we can cultivate a much deeper level of concentration, improving our inner balance, and connecting to the internal sensations of the body, so that we can reach a higher level of awareness.
The focused gaze also attracts the pranic energy there, according to the principle “prana goes where the mind goes” and the mind we can more easily fix it on an object if we also look at it.
Drishti is not necessarily necessary to take prana to a point, but it induces a great voluntary will to do so. Who can drive prana efficiently and continuously without this help no longer needs drishti.
The source of this method in yoga has its roots in the fifth and sixth branches of yoga, respectively in
Pratyahara or withdrawal of attention from the objects of the senses and
Dharana or focusing attention on one aspect.
In order to avoid the illusions and suffering created by the concern for the world of the senses, described in Maitri Upanishad, the withdrawal of the senses is practiced to help the disciple become centered. According to tantric philosophy, by practicing centering or Madhya, it is possible to suspend thoughts and prana.
The sixth branch of yoga, dharana or concentration, includes maintaining drishti during the practice of yoga to ensure the appearance of the next phase, namely, meditation (dhyana).”
In the yogic spiritual texts are mentioned nine types of fixation of the gaze during the execution of the yogiedary postures, they can be many more, depending on:
- Nasikagram drishti – towards the tip of the nose
- Ajna chakra or bhrumadhya drishti – between the eyebrows, where the Ajna chakra is located
- Nabhi chakra drishti – towards the navel area
- Hastagram drishti – to the hands
- Padayoragram drishti – to the feet
- Parshva drishti – to the right
- Parshva drishti – to the left
- Angushthamadhyam drishti – towards the fingers
- Urdhva drishti – to the sky.
At some asanas such as Utthita Ardha Dhanurasana we look at a fixed point, respectively at the horizon line. By fixing the gaze to these points we become more centered and develop a good inner balance.
Like many other authentic yogic techniques, practicing drishti there is a danger of mistakenly considering the technique as an end in itself. In fact, the effects are the ones and not the technique and if the effects are not necessary, we can stop the practice.
For example, Sri Yukteswar told his students, as his beloved disciple Paramahamsa Yogananda tells us, that Nasikagram drishti he does not consider it necessary, since the effects of the techniques can also be achieved without it.
For ourselves only the practice and indications of the yoga master can clarify to us at what stage of a technique, as well as when it is necessary to practice Drishti.