Moving Forward! Start a journey to a Yogi Lifestyle – 4 The Theory

Moving Forward! Start a journey to a Yogi Lifestyle – 4  The Theory

Love the theory part, not so much that I like to read now, but so relax and easy that someone there talk and I listen, the science, the philosophy, the art, and the stories.

I had already much forgotten to recall exactly how many years from the day I enjoy listening to the teacher’s classroom teaching.

It’s back to my old golden days.

After all, after reading for so many years, my eye sights getting bad. Just packed up all my books into 26 cartons of boxes while preparing to move them to another location.

After this course, I think, likely will start collecting and pick up again, books on the Yoga’s title.

It’s pleasant reading on the Yoga Sutra, though initially having difficulties and hard time stirring my tongues over the Sanskrit words and trying to figure out what’s the meaning by reading the long explanation inside the manual, which eventually made me more confused.

Lucky enough, I managed to find and organized from the internet.
Well, IF, I meant “IF”, If I have the time, likely will add on to it’s German and Chinese or even other languages translation at my leisure if I can find it.

Here share if you need.

Here go we happy Journey to Yoga Lifestyle.

Patanjali’s Yoga Sutra Translation Sanskrit to English

 

汇编 Complied by Angie Chua 20190909.

My Love Hate Relationship with Yoga

I chanced upon yoga a few years back when a new yoga studio opened just 5 minutes from where I stayed. I went for their open house during their grand opening and signed up for a one-year package. Took my first hot yoga and fell in love with it. That hotness in the studio makes you perspire like hell, but you feel so good after. That same night I slept like a baby.

I continued various different classes with different teachers. Hatha, flow, hot, yin and Ashtanga. That’s where I discovered the style (Ashtanga) that I love the most. I started attending Ashtanga classes more frequently on a weekly basis with the same teacher without fail. However, it started my love hate relationship.

Ashtanga has a fixed sequence that your body will remember after consistent practice. You just flow through the variation poses like water flowing with the tide. However, I find certain poses intimidating and challenging especially the inversion and backbending poses.

I guess quite a lot of beginners like me finds those poses a huge hurdle. Without proper guidance or explanation, there is no way you can learn to stand on your head or bend it gracefully like a gymnast. Pun intended…  

Even though I continued my weekly classes without fail, I have yet to conquer that hate. After one year, I quit from the studio and yoga practice. And went on a hiatus. Until early last year, where my sister suggested to try out a studio (Tirisula) that she has been attending yoga classes regularly. I attended the first class with her and fell in love again. Angelika, the yoga teacher for that day was amazing. Her dedication to all the students of all levels was undivided. She pays attention to every student individual different needs and adjusted our posture for every class that I have attended. I must say, the teacher, teaching the classes plays an important role. She motivated me to overcome my hate. And from there I fall in love all over again and has never look back since.

Patsy Kaye Ang, YTT200 Weekend Warrior – March 2018

 

Raja Yoga- Yama

When I was first introduced to the eight limbs of raja yoga/ashtanga yoga in class, I found that the first limb, Yama, seems to be similar to the Ten Commandments. So I went to read up more about it.
Yama refers to the disappearance of all suppression. It describes five moral restrains that governs our interactions with other and they are Ahimsa, Satya, Asteya, Brahmacharya and Aparigraha.

  1. Ahimsa- “Non-violence”

A person who is firmly established in non-violence, all hostilities towards another will completely disappear, and suddenly love arises from the abandonment of violence. From a Christian perspective, this yama resonates strongly with Jesus’s greatest commandment- to love your neighbor as yourself. Jesus did not harbor any hate or grudges on those who had betrayed him, yet He showed forgiveness. He repeatedly emphasized the need to forgive people, and to do good to everyone.

  1. Satya- “Truthfulness”

A person who firmly established in truthfulness, he will be living truth, he will be walking with truth and all actions will be aligned to truth. Being truthful in all things is of paramount importance in yoga but it must be balanced with Ahimsa. The commandment “You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor” mirrors Satya.

  1. Asteya- “Non-stealing, non-covertedness”

When a person is completely established in non-theft of other possessions, all treasures and ornaments appear and present itself to the person. This mirrors the commandment “You shall not steal” and “You shall not covet what belongs to your neighbour’s”.

  1. Brahmacharya- “Moderation”

Brahmacharya states that when we have control over our physical impulses of excess, we attain knowledge, vigor and increased energy. By practicing Brahmacharya, we can achieve balance, creating moderation in our daily activities. From a Christian perspective, the seventh commandment “You shall not commit adultery” doesn’t exactly mirror this. However, the commandment encompasses the human sexuality. The virtue of chastity comes under the fundamental virtue of abstinence and seeks to moderate the passions and appetites of the senses with reasons.

  1. Aparigraha- “Non-possessiveness”

The word “parigraha” is greed rooted in jealousy. Aparigraha encourages a simple and modest lifestyle. Being established in non-possessiveness, all the possibilities of how, why, where and when about the various existences are revealed to you. When you are not possessive of the body and mind, you comply with the present. Similarly, this mirrors the commandment “You shall not covet whatever that belongs to your neighbor”. The parable of the rich fool also underlines the danger of putting material possessions over God.
 
Happy Good Friday
Amanda
200 hours YTT Jan weekends

What has happened to Yoga now?

Yoga, traditionally, is an individual practice. Even if the yogi is to learn from a Guru, the guru will not spoon feed you and tell you instructions on how to do the asanas or pranayama. For Ashtanga Yoga, in Mysore (a place in India), no instructions are given during the asana (yoga poses) practice. Practitioners are do perform a set of about 70+ yoga poses in a continuous flow, and the guru will adjust and correct.
It is a quiet practice. All you hear is the sound of oceanic breaths, called Ujjayi breathing, plus the sounds of landing on the feet from an uncontrolled practitioner. Sometimes the rhythm of the breaths can be so mesmerizing, that brings you into a calm mode, amidst the challenging asanas.
The most important thing of the asana practice is to go inward, focusing on your breath, gaze and bandha (lock), which is 180 degrees different from what is happening currently in the common Yoga classes in Singapore and the region.
Yoga is to help you go inwards.
In most gyms and fitness centres, Yoga became a dance or aerobics dancing class, where you have huge mirrors and music. Plus a nanny Yoga instructor who nags at you, instructing you specifically what to do. For students who doesn’t use their ears, they rely on a Yoga demonstrator to perform all the yoga poses and they follow. When there is no demonstration, they become lost.
The mirrors can be very distracting as you will find yourself staring at yourself half the time, and the other half the time, looking at other people, comparing yoga poses, are you the best or worst.
Do the students learn anything from that monkey see monkey do ‘yoga’ class? No! (Only a few intelligent ones do) Basically, they don’t use their brain to remember or recall anything. They awareness may not be in their own body to remember the bodily positions that they have held 1 hour ago. There may be too many postures done for beginners to remember the whole sequence. (Sometimes, this is the trick used by more Yoga instructors, so that their students can keep coming back, instead of letting them go for their individual practice. Show them 1000 moves so that they don’t recall any single move)
This ‘Yoga’ brings your attention outwards.
I find that this is not the proper way to teach Yoga. This is very misleading and because of publicity and marketing, common man choose to believe that the ‘Yoga’ is the right way to go. I want to clear up the misunderstanding as much as possible, therefore, we came up with this program:
Yoga for Self practice course (click the link for more details)
This is the most value for money investment that you can make for your own health. The course is not cheap, cheap things cannot be good. If you were to compare this investment to the time taken you need to travel from your house to a yoga studio, the class fees you have to pay, the transport cost, the time taken to travel from yoga studio to work place for 1 year, this course is definitely worth it. What’s most important is to learn the right things and not to damage your body.
That’s all for now. Time for me to go inward.

The Eightfold Path

The eightfold path is called ashtanga, which literally means “eight limbs” (ashta=eight, anga=limb). These eight steps basically act as guidelines on how to live a meaningful and purposeful life and serve as a prescription for moral and ethical conduct as well as self-discipline.Through this eight fold path, they help practitioner to accept the spiritual aspects of nature. The most important aspect for building construction is the foundation, whereas the construction of the spiritual edifice of raja yoga is constituted by yamas and niyamas. More advanced practices such as meditation should also be pursued but there will be no substantial progress until the 10 practices of yama and niyama are established.

Yama
The first limb, yama, deals with one’s ethical standards and sense of integrity, focusing on our behavior and how we conduct ourselves in life. It should be noted that all yamas should be practiced in the spirit and put into practice. All 5 yamas are interconnected and should be practiced in relation to each other. Although sometimes they are contradictory,Yamas are universal practices that relate best to what we know as the Golden Rule, “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” The five yamas are:

  •  Ahimsa: nonviolence . It also means “entire abstinence from causing any pain or harm whatsoever to any living creature, either by thought, word or deed.”Non-injury will require harmless mind & actions.
  • Satya: truthfulness. It is more than merely telling the truth. Everyone should practised what they preach and walk the talk.
  • Asteya: nonstealing and is self-explanatory. However, it is good to bear in mind that there are many subtle ways to desire what does not belong to us.
  • Brahmacharya: advocating chastity or celibacy as sex is the most depleting activity to the psychic and nervous system. Like all traditional spiritual traditions, yoga advocates restraining from indulging in sensual gratification. This energy is built up through the practices of yoga such as asanas, pranayama and japa but is dissipated during sensual enjoyment.
  • Aparigraha: noncovetousness and the state of being contented. This also includes the notion of not accepting gifts that would bind us to the giver.

Niyama
 Niyama, the second limb, has to do with self-discipline and spiritual observances. Regularly attending temple or church services, saying grace before meals, developing your own personal meditation practices, or making a habit of taking contemplative walks alone are all examples of niyamas in practice. The five niyamas are:

  • Saucha: cleanliness which includes purity of mind and thoughts. It also include the cleanliness of the boday which includes kriyas 
  • Samtosa: contentment with your life though it is good to do improvement to your lifestyle. One must remember that the world is not a perfect place.
  • Tapas: heat; spiritual austerities is required to strengthen ourselves physically and mentally . One of the best way is through fasting.
  • Svadhyaya: study of the sacred scriptures and of one’s self. For a vedantin the best scriptures are the Upanishads, the Bhagavad Gita and the Brahma Sutras
  • Isvara pranidhana: surrender to God’s will and devotion. All ethical and moral precepts of yoga culminate here.

Asana
Asanas, the postures practiced in yoga, comprise the third limb. In the yogic view, the body is a temple of spirit, the care of which is an important stage of our spiritual growth. Furthermore the posture must be kept still for a long time and therefore it needs to be extremely comfortable. When the meditator is not able to control his mind, he is advised to practice the asanas of hatha yoga in order to gain the needed mastery.
Pranayama
Generally translated as breath control, this fourth stage consists of techniques designed to gain mastery over the respiratory process while recognizing the connection between the breath, the mind, and the emotions. As implied by the literal translation of pranayama, “life force extension,” yogis believe that it not only rejuvenates the body but actually extends life itself.Very much like the wind creates the motion of the leaves, prana creates the motion of the mind which gives rise to the vrittis. Air is the primary physical medium of prana and breathing is our best method to gain control over the prana.
Pratyahara
Pratyahara, the fifth limb, means withdrawal or sensory transcendence. It is during this stage that we make the conscious effort to draw our awareness away from the external world and outside stimuli. The practice of pratyahara provides us with an opportunity to step back and take a look at ourselves. The analogy given to us is that of the tortoise which, under perceived danger, pulls in all its limbs and head.

Dharana
As each stage prepares us for the next, the practice of pratyahara creates the setting for dharana, or concentration. One-pointedness. The meditator is fully focused on the object of concentration, his mind as still as the flame of a lamp in a windless room. Extended periods of concentration naturally lead to meditation. Which is dhyana.In asana and pranayama, although we pay attention to our actions, our attention travels. Our focus constantly shifts as we fine-tune the many nuances of any particular posture or breathing technique. In pratyahara we become self-observant; now, in dharana, we focus our attention on a single point.
Dhyana
Meditation or contemplation, the seventh stage of ashtanga, is the uninterrupted flow of concentration. Although concentration (dharana) and meditation (dhyana) may appear to be one and the same, a fine line of distinction exists between these two stages. In dhyana there is still duality of consciousness which is the feeling of separation between the meditator and the object of meditation. When maintained long enough this state will lead to the highest rung of the ladder of ashtanga yoga which is samadhi.This may seem to ba difficult task , however do remember that practise makes perfect and at every stage of our progress, we will benefit from this practice.
Samadhi 

“The state of consciousness where Absoluteness is experienced attended with all-knowledge and joy; Oneness; here the mind becomes identified with the object of meditation; the meditator and the meditated, thinker and thought become one in perfect absorption of the mind.”

At this stage, the meditator merges with his or her point of focus and transcends the Self altogether. The meditator comes to realize a profound connection to the Divine, an interconnectedness with all living things. With this realization comes the “peace that passeth all understanding”; the experience of bliss and being at one with the Universe. This ultimate stage of yoga which is enlightenment can neither be bought nor possessed. However,  it can be attained through continual practice.

Beginner ( first timer) lesson plan

5 min:

  • Introduce your self
  • Ask for medical history, not feeling well

20 min:

  • Do OM X3; explain OM

It is believed to be the basic sound of the universe, the cosmic vibration and contains all other sounds. When repeated correctly it penetrates all and creates harmony and unity with all that exists – with mind, body and spirit and that to all others

  • Start on breathing; show them how to breath, exhaling sucking in the belly and inhaling expanding tummy.

Warm up :
Legs:

  • Move your legs on the spot( jogging style)
  • Swing your left leg forward and backward x5 ( do the same with the right leg)

Hip:

  • Stretch out your hand and move up ( inhale ) & move down ( exhale) with hands touching the mat x5
  • Stretch your hand up and interlock your fingers. Inhale and stretch. Do the same on the left side and right side (holding breath for 3 counts)

Shoulder:

  • Rotate your shoulder clockwise and anti clockwise

Neck:

  • Rotate your neck, left to right and right to left x5

30 min:
Asana:
Sun salutation A

  • Stand at the front of the mat, place hand together in prayer position.
  • Inhale, arms up and As you exhale, hollow out your belly and fold into Uttanasana (Standing Forward Bend), connecting down into the earth. Keep your legs firmly engaged.
  • Inhale half way up, look up , hands placing on the mat, step right leg backwards followed by left leg.
  • Stay in plank position
  • Inhale and exhale normally
  • Exhale,8 limbed staff pose on the mat  where  toes, knees, chest, chin are touching the floor
  • In hale , lift the knees, moving slightly forwards into upward facing dog.
  • Exhale into downward facing dog.( adho mukha svanasana)-breakdown as below:
  1. Come into all fours
  2. Place your knees right under your hips, making sure first you have fully extended your spine.
  3. Place your hands on your mat, shoulder-width apart
  4. Light spread your fingers and making sure your middle finger faces directly forward.
  5. Lift your pelvis to the ceiling and draw your hips back, look at your feet. They should be hip distance apart.
  6. Your heels may / may not touch the ground- try to ground your heels ( you will be able to feel your spine being stretch and your hips, hamstrings & shoulders)
  7. Press hands and stretch your hips back from the tops of your thighs.
  8. Shift your weight back into your hips and look towards your belly
  9. Ensure the crown of your head is aligned to the natural line of your spine
  10. Breath slowly X5
  11. On your 5th exhale, bend your knees & look between your hands.
  • In hale, look up place right leg between the palms and repeat the same for left leg.
  • Exhale back into uttanasana ( standing forward bend)
  • Inhale and stand up in praying post.
  • Remain here for a few breaths & continue your next  salute

Standing pose:
Trikonasana=Triangle pose;Utthita trikonasana:
(Do take a block if needed)

  • From Tadasana( mountain pose) facing the long edge of the your mat.
  • Step your feet wide apart and turn your left foot out so it is parallel to the front of your mat
  • And turn your left foot in slightly.
  • On inhalation, raise your arms parallel to the floor, extend your arm bones away from your center with all your heart.
  • On exhalation, bend towards right leg, keeping hip square. Place your right hand on your right leg / on a block/ hold the ankle.
  • Keep your gazing point towards the your left thumb; keep your breast wide apart and look up. Breath for x5 . Repeat on the left side.

Savasana/Cool down( 5 min):

  • Lie down, spread your legs apart, your palms facing towards the ceiling.
  • For instant relaxation, in hale & tense your toes, ankles, thighs, buttocks and abdomen. Exhale
  • Inhale and make your hands into fist, tense your chest, biceps/ triceps , facial muscles, crown of your head and exhale
  • Relax and focus on your right feet, relax your toe, thigh, ankle. Relax your left feet, toe, ankle, thigh.
  • Relax your abdomen, and focus on your hands. Relax your shoulder, hand, ankle, wrist, fingers.
  • Relax your facial muscle, your eyes, your head crown
  • Bring the awareness back to body and sit in Sukhahasana. Bow gratitude.

Yamas

The Yamas and Niyamas form the first two “limbs” of the eight limbs of Raja Yoga.  They are the restraints and observances that are evident in our behavior and reflect our attitudes about ourselves.  They are a fundamental part of “yogic lifestyle.”
The yamas are the “restraints”.  It is important to note that one must restrain without suppression (rather covert the energy to something positive).  Suppression will lead to frustration and will have a negative effect on the mind as evident in the behavior.  For example, if I tell myself I cannot eat chocolate I will just want it more and more till I eventually eat it and probably too much!  This behavior may not be very destructive in itself, but my attitude is changed for the worst.  I will suffer feelings of loss of control, poor confidence and will mentally feel failure.  A better approach would be to ask myself why I am desiring the chocolate and work from the inside out.  This will take time but the result will be much better.  Pranayama, concentration and meditation would all be useful tools to help me change my behavior.
The yamas include:
1. Ahimsa–Non-violence in both thoughts and actions.  This includes thoughts and attitudes about oneself!  This is the reason yogis are vegetarians and refrain from eating an animal that must be killed for the purpose of consumption.
2.  Satya–Truthfulness.  This is reflected behaviorally in what we say–not telling lies and being pure in our speech.  If our speech is not pure, the mind will not be pure.
3.  Brahmacharya–sublimation of sexual energy.  This not only refers to sex itself but also to lust.  Wanting something so badly that it consumes our thoughts and drives our behavior will not lead to a calm mind.
4.  Asteya–non-stealing, lack of jealousy.  This means we are not to be distracted by what we don’t have.  Covetousness only leads to impure thoughts and discontent.  Being “non-stealing” means that if we want something it must come from pure motive and hard work.
5.  Aparigraha–non accepting of gifts or bribes.  This has to do with our motives.  Motives must be pure–if I am only acting to recieve some reward in return it is not pure and will hind my mind.  This includes self-bribery–“if I eat healthy all week I will buy myself some new shoes.”
The Yamas/restraints are the first step to purifying our minds and transforming ourselves through the practice of yoga.  I feel it is important to remember that it is a process and we must patiently transform from the inside out.  With a clear conscience and pure thoughts we will begin the pathway to peace.  Practicing the yamas will help anyone enjoy a better lifestyle whether or not they choose to continue further the practice of yoga.

Pratyahara: Sense Withdrawal

Pratyahara:  Withdrawl of the Senses
Pratyahara is described as withdrawl from the 5 senses (taste, touch, sight, sound, smell).  It is derived from the Sanskrit words “prata”, which means away from/against, and “ahara”, which means food, or anything taken into ourselves.  Pratyahara links the external aspects of yoga (yamas/niyamas, asana, pranayama) with the internal (meditation, enlightenment).  It is the 5th step in the 8 limbs of Raja Yoga.  The 8 limbs/steps are performed sequentially, as the mastery of each one is required to move to the next level.  To achieve pratyahara, the mind must first be turned inward—only then can the senses (indriyas) follow.  Pratyahara is a mental function and involves both cognition and expression (physical and astral planes)—so one must suspend both external stimulation of senses and those within the mind.  This means that one must go beyond reducing external stimuli (closing eyes, sitting in a quiet place, touching as little as possible) but must extend into what is going on in the mind (“seeing” with the mind’s eye, for example).  Pratayahara is described in yoga sutras 2.54, 2.55.

2.54 When the mental organs of senses and actions (indriyas) cease to be engaged with the corresponding objects in their mental realm, and assimilate or turn back into the mind-field from which they arose, this is called pratyahara, and is the fifth step.
(sva vishaya asamprayoge chittasya svarupe anukarah iva indriyanam pratyaharah)
2.55 Through that turning inward of the organs of senses and actions (indriyas) also comes a supreme ability, controllability, or mastery over those senses inclining to go outward towards their objects.
(tatah parama vashyata indriyanam)

 “Clinging” to the action of sensing will hinder the mind from withdrawl and does not lead to meditation.  Continuing sensory function (internal or external) is merely relaxation.  Pratyahara is the suspension of both.  One must train the mind to turn inward and suspend sense gratification on the astral plane—where the mind goes, the physical senses will follow.  For example:  Breaking a bad habit.  Habits arise from gratification of the physical senses.  To completely stop the action can lead to suppression and frustration.  Using the principles of pratyahara, if the mental “habit” can broken first, physical will follow.  By withdrawing from the sensory stimulus, the mind is taking control of the sensory function and desire on a physical level is lost.
Pratyahara practices include:
Pranayama—the focus is solely on the breath, turning attention inward
Concentration or Visualization of the 3rd eye (Ajna Chakra)
Focus on one sense only.  The mind will naturally roam between the senses.  By pinpointing one and focusing on that sense only, the mind will eventually tire of it and withdraw.
Advanced practitioners can stop nerve impulses from reaching their centers in the brain through pranayama and thus “turn off” nerves.
The final form of Pratyahara is to withdraw attention from anything that is unwholesome and distracting for the mind.  The practitioner will thus lose the desire for things he/she formerly used to gratify the senses and will have less attachments. 
References: 

  1. Swamij.com  “Yoga Sutras of Patanjali 2.54, 2.55.  Pratyahara or sense withdrawl…”
  2. Wikipedia.com  “Pratyahara”

Aparigraha – De-clutter and be liberated

Just as we need to still and clear our minds for meditation and ultimately enlightenment, a similar sense of freedom and wellbeing may be achieved by de-cluttering our homes and living quarters.
Personally I have become a self proclaimed expert at de-cluttering only because I have been compelled to go through the process by moving abroad many times. By moving countries one is faced with a situation of having to make a decision on every single item of one’s possession; whether to take, give away or dispose. This tedious process has left an indelible reminder in my mind about the ‘sins’ of accumulation and hoarding.
It is very difficult to shed these as I believe in most of us there is the seed of fear of separation from an article for a host of reasons: sentimental value, fear of letting go in case it is needed at a latter date or it could be that we are consumed by consumerism and need to buy more and more.
Any Feng Shui book will begin by advising the reader to de-clutter. Having cupboards and rooms full of things and clothes that one hardly uses or thinks that he/she might become useful in the future is like having weights round one’s ankles whilst trying to walk. This excess baggage hinders energy flow in a room apart from the fact that it attracts dust and housework becomes more laborious.
How can we de-clutter?
To start with we should question ourselves every time when we are shopping especially of non-consumables. Do we need this item so much that it deserves a place in our home? exercise machines and massage chairs are typical examples of large items often bought with the best intentions but often left in corners to gather dust.
Charities are hungry for all sorts of items and there are clothes and shoe banks all around town. Some charities will even collect large items of furniture
Have a garage sale or even sell unwanted items on the internet
When you hear that a friend or a family member is in need of something and you happen to have two of or one that is not used then take the opportunity to give. Giving is good for the soul!
Recycling is also an option. Unused or obsolete hardware and printers are often required for their parts or indeed sent abroad to third world countries to be recycled.
If you can’t be bothered with any of the above, then just bin the unwanted excess baggage. The municipal dump will sort things out for re-cycling.
Remember Aparigraha? One of the Yamas of Patanjali.  ‘Graha’ means “to grasp” and ‘pari’ means “things”. Aparigraha means “not grasping things” or non-possessiveness or non-hoarding.
A yogic maxim says, “All the things in the world are yours to use, but not to own.”
Whenever we become possessive, we are in turn possessed, anxiously holding onto our things and grasping for more. But when we make good use of the possessions that come to us and enjoy them without emotionally dependent on them then they do not wield power over us. We will be able to let go more easily.
Try letting go of stuff, it is very satisfying and liberating!

Drishti – Your Focus, Now Where is the Mind

Focusing on a Drishti
A drishti (view or gaze) is a specific focal point that is employed during meditation or while holding a yoga posture. The ancient yogis discovered that where our gaze is directed our attention naturally follows, and that the quality of our gazing is directly reflected in the quality of our mental thoughts. When the gaze is fixed on a single point the mind is diminished from being stimulated by all other external objects. And when the gaze is fixed on a single point within the body, our awareness draws inwards and the mind remains undisturbed by external stimuli. Thus, the use of a drishti allows the mind to focus and move into a deep state of concentration. And the constant application of drishti develops ekagraha, single-pointed focus, an essential yogic technique used to still the mind.
A drishti is commonly used in meditation to focus and concentrate the mind. The most useful drishti points used are the breath and the third eye center. External focal points can also be used, such as the tip of the nose, a candle or mandala.
In yoga postures, a drishti is used to deepen the primary movement of the pose, as well as to keep the mind engaged and focused. To use a drishti while in a yoga pose, simply select the point where your gaze is naturally directed by the alignment of the posture. The use of drishtis in yoga postures is to be developed slowly over time. First one must develop and focus on the alignment of pose, then the breath, and then finally the drishti. Using a drishti is especially helpful if you are holding a posture for an extended period of time, and will be enormously helpful while practicing balancing poses.
In Ashtanga yoga, eight specific drishtis are used and described: Nasagrai Drishti, gaze at the tip of the nose, as used in upward facing dog and standing forward fold poses. Angusta Ma Dyai Drishti, gaze at the thumbs, as used in warrior I. Nabi Chakra Drishti, gaze at the navel, as used in downward facing dog. Pahayoragrai Drishti, gaze at the toes, as used in hand to toe pose and most seated forward bends. Hastagrai Drishti, gaze at the hands, as used in triangle and warrior II. Parsva Drishti, gaze to the side, as used in seated spinal twists. Urdhva Drishti, gaze upwards, as used in warrior angle, balancing half moon, and prayer twist. Naitrayohmadya or Broomadhya Drishti, gaze at the third eye or forehead, as used in fish, upward forward fold, and reverse warrior II.
When using a drishti, do not strain the eyes. The muscles around the eyes should be relaxed and the gaze should be soft. Generally, it is recommended to use bahya (external) gazing for externally oriented yoga practices and antara (internal) gazing for contemplative and meditative practices. But there is also value to having the eyes closed and using antara drishti during yoga postures, as this creates a deep state of meditation and inward focus while holding the pose.
In bhakti yoga, drishti is used in a slightly different way: a constant loving and longing gaze is turned toward the concept, name or image of God. Drishti can also be thought of in a broader context, of having the proper view or perspective of one’s life. By developing the ability to adapt one’s perspective to accommodate the continuous change in the world, we can avoid the unnecessary attachments that cause us suffering.