We are gifted with 5 senses that keep us connected with the outside world. The mind constantly receives inputs and keeps responding to the stimuli. Among these, the mind follows ‘Eyes’ the most. Most of our memories are also stored as experiences of the eyes. Most part of our lives are spent to make things visually appealing…. including ourselves. And they do create an impact….looks do matter.
The Eye is so powerful that our mind starts thinking in the direction we are looking at, we see an old friend and the mind is delighted, we see someone who has helped us in life and the mind will gather feelings of respect. One of the three monkeys of Gandhiji also emphasized on not looking at bad things. The influence of what we see is profound.
The system of Yoga identified this aspect of the Eye and utilized it to bring in focus and balance.
I distinctly remember one of my students who attended sessions religiously everyday but noticed that his eyes would always keep moving looking at others practicing or staring at things around. This student could not perform Pranayama for over 2 minutes with eyes closed cos his mind loved to be distracted. Distraction had become his habit. Constant reminders failed to keep his eyes and mind pondering on things around and this reflected in his poor practice. Looking at others during Yoga practice is strongly not recommended cos it instantly brings up thoughts of comparison and judgement.
The fact that eyes can bring in focus and balance can be experienced once we move into intermediate and advanced asanas which would involve deep forward bends, back bends, inversions and arm balances. We just cannot bring in grace into our postures if our eyes and mind are not focused.
There are several aspects of Yoga that involve the Eye to develop focus…. Tratak, concentrating on an object to develop in meditation, visualization in yog nidra and so on. Ashtanga Yoga practice that comes from Mysore and also the Iyengar system of asana practice have specific emphasis on where we look at while we perform the asana.
There are eight points of gaze also known as ‘Drishtis’ that have been identified to keep the practitioner engaged with the current moment and being aware of the asana….the eight points are:
– Broomadhya: between the eyebrows
– Nasagrai: tip of nose
– Angustha ma dyai: the thumbs
– Nabi Chakra: the navel
– Urdhva: up to the sky
– Hastagrai: the hands
– Padhayoragrai: the toes
– Prasva: far left or far right
Using the gaze points helps mind to get focused and also develops inner focus. Thereby, taking us a step further in the aspects of Dharana (concentration) and Dhyana (meditation).
So next time in your Yoga session and also through the day, think of what you are looking at.