foundation friday

Foundation Friday: Drishti

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Zoran's drishti aids in his balance and concentration.


Foundation Friday: Drishti or Gazing Point


Drishti (meaning: "full seeing", vision, point of view, intelligence or wisdom)

Pratyahara: sense withdrawal

Dharana: concentration

drish-tee

 


"The eyes play a predominant part in the practice of asanas." - BKS Iyengar


Drishti, or focused gaze, is a means for developing concentrated intention. It relates to the fifth limb of yoga concerning sense withdrawal, as well as the sixth limb dharana relating to concentration.  There are a total of 9 drishtis and each yoga asana is associated with one.  There are many yoga systems that use this practice and differences regarding which are used for specific asanas, but drishti is mainly part of the Ashtanga Yoga, Hatha Yoga, Bhakti Yoga and Raja Yoga traditions.

 

Why do we practice drishti?

 

Focusing your gaze as specific points allows your concentration and intention to flow in a circular manner.  The gaze first comes from within and is then directed outward to a specific point.  This intense focus creates an energy that is reflected back into your body to hold your concentration.  This allows the 'looking' to reflect inward, creating a withdrawal of the outward senses and a connection to Self.  The directed gaze also gives the mind a focused visual stimulus; wherever your eyes go your mind will follow.  Drishti allows the mind to be singularly focussed and balances our internal and external practice.  In a visually addictive world, our attention is like currency.  Spend it wisely!

 

Drishti may help...

 

  • concentration
  • inner connection
  • posture alignment
  • meditation
  • cleansing the mind
How is it done?

 

Though the gaze is fixed on an external point, the true meaning of drishti is meant to direct our focus to the subtle aspects of our practice.  We may become more aware of our breath, mind, and internal workings of our body simply by creating this circular focus.  In general, let your gaze move in the direction of your stretch.  Prana follows the direction of your gaze.
Yoga Journal states the following:

In Urdhva Mukha Svanasana (Upward-Facing Dog Pose), for instance, we gaze at the nose tip: Nasagrai Drishti. In meditation and in Matsyasana (Fish Pose), we gaze toward the Ajna Chakra, the third eye: Naitrayohmadya (also called Broomadhya) Drishti. In Adho Mukha Svanasana (Downward-Facing Dog Pose), we use Nabi Chakra Drishti, gazing at the navel. We use Hastagrai Drishti, gazing at the hand, in Trikonasana (Triangle Pose). In most seated forward bends, we gaze at the big toes: Pahayoragrai Drishti. When we twist to the left or right in seated spinal twists, we gaze as far as we can in the direction of the twist, using Parsva Drishti. In Urdhva Hastasana, the first movement of the Sun Salutation, we gaze up at the thumbs, using Angusta Ma Dyai Drishti. In Virabhadrasana I (Warrior Pose I), we use Urdhva Drishti, gazing up to infinity. In every asana, the prescribed drishti assists concentration, aids movement, and helps orient the pranic (energetic) body.

 

In some cases, an improper drishti can actually be harmful, like shoulderstand where the head should not turn to look left or right.  Keep this in mind when working with drishti in your practice.

 

Let the drishti be your guide in to the unseen, to your source, your truth.  Allow the flow of your gaze bring you into your true balance and nature.

 

 

 

Foundation Friday: Sama Vritti Breath

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Yogalifer Amy Stuparyk shows us you can literally practice this breath anywhere!

 


Foundation Friday: Sama Vritti Breath


Pranayama (meaning: to restrain or control life force) Sama Vritti or Equal Breath (Sama = even, smooth, flat, equal or same, Vritti = fluctuations or modifications)

sa-ma vree-tee

 

Why do we practice Sama Vritti breathing?

 

As the saje Patanjali teaches, we practice yoga asanas and meditation to calm or smooth the fluctuations of the mind (yoga-chitta-vritti-nirodhah).  This same principle can apply to sama vritti pranayama—smooth, equal breaths to inspire a calm mind.  As the name suggests, the purpose of sama vritti is to create a steady, equal rhythm to create a quality of 'sameness' or balance in the flow of consciousness. Pranayama—or breathwork—is one of the eight Limbs of Yoga (more on those to come!) and can be practiced on its own, or alongside asana (postures).

 

Sama Vritti may help...

 

  • distractions of the mind
  • anxiety
  • heart rate
  • flow of consciousness
  • general focus and attention
  • achieving a meditative state
  • steadiness in our seated and asana practice
The duration of our everyday inhales and exhales are usually arrythmic or irregular. This indicates an imbalance in our everyday consciousness. The practice of sama vritti or equal breathing will create a quality of 'balance' or 'sameness' in the flow of our consciousness. It is helpful in reaching a state of equilibrium and as you practice, and since it instills a sense of calm and quiet, you might notice that the rest of your day goes by without you becoming agitated by little things.

How is it done?

 

Pranayama often fixes a ratio between the length of each inhale and exhale.  In sama vritti pranayama, the ratio is equal.  It is a good idea to begin the practice of sama vritti pranayama in the reclining position and then continue by moving on to a seated practice.

 

To engage sama vritti pranayama, try restricting your breath to an even count on both the inhale and exhale, for example:  an inhale = 4 counts, and an exhale = 4 counts. Continue with this pattern.

 

You can increase the number of counts for each inhale and exhale as you feel comfortable, enjoying the longest pattern you can sustain!  Remember to take your time and stay steady with the counts. Notice the way your body, mind, and spirit feels quiet and calm after a sama vritti pranayama practice.... and then carry this with you throughout your day!

Foundation Friday: Savasana

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  This post is the first in a new series that delves into the basics of yoga—looking at its postures (asana), breath (pranayama), philosophy, and all the other essentials—giving you the foundations upon which to build a solid practice. First off, we’ll be taking a look at the quintessential yoga asana, or pose—savasana.

 


Foundation Friday: Savasana


 

Asana

Corpse Pose, or “Savasana”

(sava=corpse, asana=pose)

sha-vass-a-na

 

 

Savasana is the most important—and perhaps, the most difficult—pose in yoga. While it may appear that someone in savasana is simply setting up for a nap, the goal is not actually to fall asleep—rather, savasana intends to mimic the restful effects of sleep by rejuvenating the body, mind, and spirit while the practitioner remains conscious. Since we are not distracted by sensory sensation in this restful position, we are perfectly prepared to lie in quiet awareness of our breath, of our mind, and our humble presence. Without attaching any judgment on to our pattern of breath or to any thoughts that may arise, we may simply be conscious of them.

 

Why do we practice savasana?

 

Savasana is a perfect place to pause and find some peace before yoga, to settle our minds and bodies, to get ourselves into a quiet space, setting the tone for our practice. After asana practice, it is so important to take savasana—savanasa is where our bodies make sense of everything that happened throughout practice. This is the time that we can integrate any new sensory information throughout our bodies—where we can soak up all the goodness of practice and let it sink in. It is also an exercise in calming the nervous system, and just like any muscle in our body, the more we can train our brains to find quiet—to slow down and simply notice things the way they are—the stronger our brains and nervous systems will be at mimicking the same quiet, stillness, and calm throughout the rest of our lives.

 

Savasana may help…

 

• Decrease your heart rate • Lower your blood pressure • Alleviate muscle tension • Lessen anxiety • Heighten your ability to concentrate or focus • Increase your energy levels

 

 

How do I get there? 

 

  1. First, lie on your back. Lay your feet outstretched from your body about hip-width distance apart, with your arms outstretched a few inches away from your side body, palms face up.
  2. Let your toes relax to the sides (your feet may rotate outwards slightly).
  3. Slightly tuck your tailbone under to lengthen your spine.
  4. Tuck your shoulder blades underneath your body to open across your chest.
  5. Slightly tuck your chin in to keep the back of your neck long.
  6. Close your eyes.
  7. Relax and soften everywhere that you can in your body.
  8. Release any breathing technique you may have been using in class—breathe naturally.

***Note: comfort is essential in savasana—find whichever variation of savasana is the most relaxing to you, so that it will be easier for you to avoid distractions.

If this position is uncomfortable, you can:

 

  • Keep your upper body the same, but bring the soles of your feet together and let your knees fall wide
  • Place the soles of your feet mat-width distance apart and rest your knees together (helps if you are experiencing lower back discomfort)
  • Place a bolster under your knees (also helps with lower back discomfort)

 

We hope this helps you better understand the concept of savasana. Please feel free to comment with any further questions. And let us know if you have something you would like to see featured in Foundation Friday!