The weirdness of drishti

A couple weeks back I was wondering how one gets — and I suppose keeps — motivated day after day with an Ashtanga practice. (Thanks to those who provided some feedback; I hope there was something helpful to you if you are/were feeling a bit lethargic on the mat.)

I’ve since been thinking about it more and practicing, as well. In one talk with Bobbie, she pointed out — these are my words summing her eloquent ones up — my drishti sucked.

True enough, I discovered the next morning.

We’ve written about breath and bandhas and drishti plenty here — as you’d expect. You can check out Bobbie’s thoughts on drishti here, for instance. And I know somewhere I suggested that as long as I was focused on breathing, I more or less would say I’m “doing Ashtanga.”

As with any previously uttered/written statement, I reserve the right to refute my earlier thinking. I think breath is important — probably the most important aspect of Ashtanga. And bandhas are critical — your asanas are essentially flappy — maybe even broken — in the middle without them.

But then there’s drishti. It may be the “least important” piece to the puzzle, but at the same time it may pack more bang for the buck than anything else.

All three, of course, make up Ashtanga’s Tristana. Check out this wonderful summary of Tristana from

Tristana is the key to this spiritual side of yoga. Tristana is the name for the union of vinyasa, bandha and drishti. Only when this state is achieved, does the lotus blossom of ashtanga yoga unfold its petals. Ujjayi breathing is the foundation of vinyasa. The alignment of the body in asana is achieved through bandha. Drishti completes the trio and builds the bridge, to carry the essence of your practise from the yoga mat into your daily life

That substitutes vinyasa in for breath, sort of — breathing is the “foundation of vinyasa” in this version. But to my point: check out how drishti “builds the bridge” to a practice that is more than just what’s happening on the mat.

That’s been my experience (albeit over a small set of practices). Getting my drishti down a little better — focusing my gaze and, by default, my concentration — feels like a minor adjustment or correction to the practice, but one that then produces massive changes and, almost, aftershocks.

“Completes the trio” undersells things, I think. “Locks you in and rockets you forward” might be closer to the experience.

And that’s weird. All from a narrowing of the gaze.

Posted by Steve