Nine Gazes of Yoga
Yoga is a wonderful form of exercise. It can be much more gentle on your body than many types of exercise. It can also exercise your mind and help you to de-stress.
Hatha yoga asanas are practice with the eyes open. It is important to the practice of yoga to have the eyes in the proper positions, as well. This is achieved through the techniques of the gazes, or drishtis.
The drishtis are nine points in which the person practicing yoga can direct their eyes while performing asanas. Each pose will have a corresponding drishti. The use of these gazes will help develop awareness and draw the mind in the proper direction for the particular asana. Performing these correctly will help develop higher concentration and control of the mind.
The attention of most people is caught up by what is seen. If you try to perform some difficult asanas with a blindfold your eyes will relax and release the large amount of energy it takes to focus on the visual world. It may also be much easier to hold the pose for a longer time. This is not true, however, if the pose is dependent on sight, as in balancing poses.
By concentrating on looking in a particular direction, the energy focus will be focused in this direction, also. This will keep your eyes from wandering, which will keep your mind from wandering and thinking about what you are seeing. If you mind stays focused on what you are doing, it is easier to keep the focus on the mind-body-spirit union that should be happening while you practice yoga.
There is also an anatomical aspect to the drishtis. We gaze at our toes in most seated forward bends. This gaze will help lengthen the front of the body more than if we were staring at our navel. While performing a drishtis, your gaze should be soft and almost unfocused. It should feel as if you are looking through the object of concentration. It should help you release any tension you are feeling. It is a skill that should be developed over time, not rushed or hurried. Work towards relaxation in your entire practice.
The nine drishtis are: 1 - tip of the nose, 2 - thumbs, 3 - third eye, 4 - navel, 5 - upward toward the sky as if gazing to infinity, 6 - hands, 7 - toes, 8 & 9 - far around to the left and to the right side.
Just as your yoga practice develops over time, so will your practice of drishtis. Nothing should feel forced or stressed. One of the goals of yoga is to relieve stress, not to cause it. This will take time and practice.