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Finding Our Drishti

Yoga Beginnings 101, starting Tuesday, November 7, will include themes like Yoga philosophy, history, and vocabulary. It seems like the ideal time to introduce one of the Sanskrit words used commonly during Yoga classes. Drishti, pronounced with both syllables - drish-ti - receiving equal emphasis and the “t” given a “d” sound, means the focus point where the gaze is to be fixed. There are eight formal drishtis in yoga: both thumbs, the tip of the nose, the palms of the hands, to the sky, to the left and right sides, the navel, the toes, and the middle of the eyebrows. We all find one that speaks to us more than the others. Like many Sanskrit words, drishti has an anatomical as well a spiritual meaning. Yoga teachers often ask their students to use a focal point to keep balanced with head and neck in good alignment. In a strength pose like Warrior II, focusing on the middle fingernail of the front hand encourages yogis to find a steady posture, increasing concentration. When the gaze goes forward, neck and spinal column follow. However, in poses like Cat/Cow or Downward Facing Dog, a drishti is used to focus on the navel, thereby turning the attention inward. Drishtis go beyond simply where the eyes are focused; the meaning connotes linking of the mind and spirit as well. Using a drishti is helpful in reaching a meditative state, revealing the beauty and peace waiting to be discovered in surrendering the “monkey mind” of hyperactivity to the quiet respite of contemplation. I’ve discovered that opportunities for using a drishti can be found outside the yoga studio in natural surroundings. My daily walks include a fountain in my neighborhood. It is in the middle of a small pond surrounded by green space. It’s a peaceful spot, and I often spend a few minutes staring at the fountain, relaxing completely. Last evening, the fountain was lit from below, making the droplets of water spreading in all directions glisten. I took a picture, aiming to capture the drifting water in the breeze. As I checked my results, I discovered a surprise – the moon, in all its shimmering glory, was peeking through one of the background trees, adding another natural focal point to my collection. It reminded me of times in my life when I was so busy concentrating on a particular task or obsession that I lost sight of the beauty and people always there for me. Thankfully, they continued to shine faithfully and woke me up from my preoccupations and craziness. My daughter and I have a saying when we encounter a situation where we are disappointed in the lack of empathy and compassion in the world – “Everybody’s Busy.” Yes, we are all busy and have challenges letting go of the details of our lives to give our attention to the needs of the spirit. When we call on dristis in our yoga classes, we strengthen muscles and nerves around the eyes. They are more powerful than that. They can also be used as a way of “seeing” or perceiving what is really important - the people who make our lives special and authentic, those loving people who don’t hesitate to remind us when we’ve gone off track a bit – again. We can’t be there for them if we aren’t here for us.

*By making yourself more centered and focused, you are better equipped to make an impact on the world around you. ~

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