Updated: Dec 9, 2020
Drishti and the art of focus. Yoga practice on and off the mat with focus.
I have just come back from a lovely yoga class in which I made the class focus on “Drishti” (focus, gaze, sight or vision) and, setting a “Sankalpa” (means to think of an intention formed by the heart and mind or /and also “a conditioned habit that could be wholesome or unwholesome for us, obviously setting a wholesome one in this case).
“It is during our darkest moments that we must focus to see the light.”
I asked people to envision themselves in a situation or environment they love and to see themselves clearly in that place, feeling the emotion and imaging themselves surrounded with loving and kind people. Maybe this urge came from my own end of the year, where I felt some not so kind people surrounded me. After some careful resting and hibernating, reading, practising yoga and being with nice people, ignited my fire and here we go, fresh as a daisy for the future and determined to live my life with new wholesome intentions.
We may disappoint ourselves by making too many unrealistic new year’s eve resolutions or intentions, such as “I will never drink again”, “I will go running every day etc.” “ I will go on a diet”, so why not using smaller intentions that are more feasible to obtain. Hereby, we can use visualisation techniques. Often those smaller intentions lead to a bigger goal.
Every moment can lead to a new focus and attention, and here is where I would like to introduce the ancient word “drishi”.
Drishti allows us to focus on a vision. The more time we invest to stay conscious and try to understand our life in all its aspects, the easier it gets to choose to enjoy it. It’s our choice. We cannot change the past; however, we can learn what importance we choose to give it now and with this, be more content in the future.
A good start is to reflect on our accomplishments and learning experiences: In my case, I finished writing a manual for a teacher training course, and I felt very accomplished in achieving this. It’s a manual, in which I put all my knowledge, love and lots of information. One of my best friends read it and told me “she got inspired with yoga again”. It's more than just a yoga teacher training course; it's a personal development course manual.
I have observed how people can fall into the trap of clouded perceptions, spiritual pride and how they rewrite history and therefore potentially can create suffering for others. It is proven that 50% of details in memory can change even; thus, the person is 100% sure. Our perceptions easily can shift, and often it only requires for another person to acknowledge, and here we go, we end up convicting the wrong person.
Findings from simple psychological research indicate that memory is a reconstructive process that is unfortunately often susceptible to distortions and error. Memory is a complex interplay of synaptic connectivity by neurons that shape our future behaviour. This imperfection of memory or a certain bias towards one’ own perception of a situation that may get reinforced in a group dynamic can lead to perceiving things as “negative” or “bad”.
We can, however, also choose to be conscious and shift our experience towards growth and development without framing a perception as “negative” or even “positive”. It is simply an experience, that may not be 100% correct. The good news is that realising that this is the past and it may not be accurate; we can rewire our brains!
So, taking all this experience and reflections, I can start to think ahead.
Drishti can be translated as "sight" and in general, refers to the gazing technique practised while holding a yoga pose but also can be used to create a vision or sight for our unforeseeable future.
As explained above, Drishti also means focus. Through focus, we develop concentration and intention. It relates to the 5th limb of yoga, that is, pratyahara (withdrawal of senses) and leads to the 6th limb, that is concentration necessary for mediation and eventually samadhi or enlightenment.
In Sanskrit, Drishti can also mean “vision”, and that’s where I think a new year is useful for us, to do that, create a new vision or to see more clearly how we would like to progress.
I encourage you in any new moment to consciously focus on the positive and instead of criticising everybody, and everything choose to see what is positive and useful for you and to surround yourself with people who appreciate your help and support.
It is often frustrating to notice that we tend to overestimate what can be achieved within a short time. It is not as easy to find the right discipline to stick to a program as often our past sanskaras (conditioned patterns) make us repeat the same old unwholesome habits and we get stuck in a rut.
We can break free, thus. With the right effort, awareness and being more relaxed in our approach, we can grow and achieve just what we have envisioned. According to yogic philosophy, this karmic inheritance of mental and emotional patterns that reappear again and again in our lives can be broken with more conscious seeing.
Drishti involves conscious seeing, through which we look deeper and not let our hurt egos guide our vision. Practising drishti not only helps with our physical yoga practice but also supports our mental health and clarity.
We can set as a vision an intention or new habit that is formed by our heart and mind, a vow to keep our path in a certain way. It is like a one-pointed resolve to focus psychologically on a specific goal in our life! Formulate this intention/will with meaning and feeling and let this be powerful so that your vision becomes a reality and serves others rather than only your own ego. Those Sankalpas are said to be the best.
If you learn how to practice and to focus on your yoga asanas with drishi, and you may be able to focus better in your life. In a physical yoga exercise and movement class, we often focus on our nose tip, between the eyebrows, the navel, the thumb, hand, right or left side, toes, breath etc. – all this helps to develop concentration.
So, what could be the steps to create a powerful vision for your life?
1. Calm your mind through meditation and yoga. A relaxed mind allows you to focus with more ease
2. Visualise yourself and ask yourself “What are your strengths? What are your unique talents? Visualise yourself in the right place with the right people.
3. Learn from the “obstacles” of your past and write a list of how they have contributed to your learning process.
By being aware of all our surrounding, aware of how we stand in life, which good or wholesome people we want to let into or keep in our lives, how we combine our intellect with our heart and overall be one-pointed can help us to achieve a better and healthy mental state.
If you'd like to take your practice to the next level, why not enrol on my 200-hour accredited yoga teacher training? Email me for more details of the “yoga teaching for real people” course or meet me for a cup of tea.
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With love and joy,
Claudia Steinhauser SYAP
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