Dṛiṣṭis in Aṣṭanga Yoga

by | Jun 2, 2022 | Ashtanga Yoga, Classes, News, Wisdom

“There are nine key dṛiṣṭi (drishti), or gazes, in the Aanga yoga tradition. Each one corresponds to a specific point of focus. By incorporating the dṛiṣṭi into your yoga practice you will deepen your awareness and connection with the Divine.” (Yogapedia)

Placing our gaze onto a specific point during the practice of an asana helps us find balance and focus. It gives the posture a sense of direction as the inner breath or prana follows the mind’s attention. When the mind concentrates on a gazing point (dṛiṣṭi, also called intention) the body more readily follows and the posture deepens.

The use of dṛiṣṭis guides our awareness inward and help steady and settle our mind. We build concentration and eliminate distractions from our surroundings. Both the inward and external gaze shall be gentle rather than intense staring. This will keep us relaxed, and can assist the practice greatly.

The dṛiṣṭis or gazing points are an introduction to the 5th limb of Aṣṭanga Yoga, namely Pratyahara – the control of the senses. It is the link between the lower limbs and the upper limbs – antara anga. To be able to get to a deeper state of concentration – dharana – followed by meditation – dhyana – the senses first need to be mastered skillfully.

The sense of seeing

The sense of seeing is very powerful. It draws our awareness – and with it our energy – outwards. It often has to endure consistent bombardment through external stimuli, which can disturb the mind and deplete us. When practicing Aṣṭanga Yoga we are advised to use the ‘looking place’ or ‘gazing point’ – the dṛiṣṭi – to keep this easily distracted sense in focus. Every posture has a defined dṛiṣṭi, at which we shall gaze when holding the posture. We are also encouraged to keep the eyes open, as keeping them closed is said to prevent emotions from coming to the surface. Regular use of the dṛiṣṭis improves our eye sight or at least keeps it from declining.

There are Nine Dṛiṣṭis

Upward – Urdhva e.g. used in Upavistha Konasana

Eyebrow centre – Bhroomadhye e.g. used in Yoganidrasana

Tip of the nose – Nasagrai e.g. used in Dandasana

Navel – Nabhi Chakra e.g. used in Adho Mukha Shvanasana

Big toes – Padayoragrai e.g. used in seated forward bends

Thumb – Anguṣtamadhyai e.g. used in Utthita Trikonasana

Hand – Hastagrai e.g. used in Parvrtta Trikonasana

Sideways left and right – Parsva e.g. used in seated twists

When practiced regularly, the dṛiṣṭis give us the opportunity to experience stillness within, which is like entering a different realm in which to experience deep calm. That in turn makes us more aware of the onslaught of visual stimuli on a daily basis, and how wonderful it feels to have a break from that during the practice. It teaches us to be more discerning in the choices we are making, when we expose our sense of seeing to TV, ads, lights etc. Sometimes prolonged gazing at the ocean or into the bush enables our eyes to receive a well-deserved rest and rejuvenation.


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