Homo Sapiens are predominantly visual beings. Our attention follows wherever our eyes lead us.

On the mat it could be the person with the hip Yoga outfit or the fluff between our toes or the bird on the wire outside. Then we are snared. We’ve become distracted from our practice.

The overwhelming barrage of magazines, computer information, movies and entertainment attests to our over-stimulated visually oriented society.

Osho coined the word “Kodakomania.” When our eyes are constantly focused outwardly, our vital energy known as prana also leaks out of our bodies. In other words, we become exhausted.

Drishti is the technique of focusing the eyes and attention. Sri K. Pattabhi Jois, the Ashtanga guru, introduced the practice of drishti in the Ashtanga asana series.

Essentially there are nine drishti points of Ashtanga Yoga which are assigned for each asana (posture). For example, Adho Mukh Svanasana (Downward-Facing Dog) the gaze is at the navel. In Matsyasana (Fish Pose) the gaze is inward toward the Ajna Chakra (Third Eye). In Paschimottasana (Seated Forward Bend) the gaze is at the toes.

The important aspect of the drishti, or gaze, is the balance between looking inward and outward. The drishti assists us with our ability to concentrate, with movement and with the energetic body.

Our eyes see objects that reflect the visible spectrum of light. Yogis seek that which is invisible with the eyes. Often we see what we want to see. Or what we see is clouded by our prejudices, opinions and attitudes. Drishti can become a tool for unveiling avidya (ignorance) that obscures seeing the world as it is.

Kriya is a cleansing technique used when we gaze at a candle (trataka). The eyes are open until tears form. Not only do we get an eye wash, but one can develop concentration to prevent the urge to blink.

During some forms of sitting meditation, the eyelids are closed and the gaze is turned toward the third eye.

Gazes should be soft and receptive rather than hard and forced. Some people on the mat close their eyes too often during an asana practice. These people need to balance their inner drama with a detached, neutral outer gaze. For those who tend to become distracted easily, a more inner-directed gaze is appropriate.

Proper Drishti cultivates stability, balance and presence in our poses. When the external gaze becomes one-pointed, then the internal landscape of the wandering mind also becomes stable, balanced and more present.

Seeing with the eyes of Drishti enables us to see past our differences. Ultimately it is a unitive view. We can see with a clear mind and clear eyes as if seeing for the first time.

The essence of Drishti is to see the totality of Being. It is seeing everything from the inside out. To me that would be like cruising into the layers of inner space with that awareness or attunement. What a trip.

Excuse me while I head back to the mat.

Namaste.

Lillian Strauss is a Yoga practitioner, reflexologist, Thai massage therapist, movement and music teacher at Energy Works. For information on her classes, contact her at 393-4541 or strausslillian@yahoo.ca.