I went to yoga last night. It was a short and not very challenging class, but it felt good. Again, I had that feeling of recognition, the sense that my body knows the language of asana on a cellular level. The reason I went today is that on Wednesday afternoons there is a children’s class at the same time as the adult class. Grace has been wanting to try yoga “for real” (at a studio, I guess, instead of school, or home?), so we went. And she loved it. That was great.

In class I couldn’t stop thinking about drishti. Drishti is the focal point upon which you rest your gaze as you move through the poses. I started practicing yoga (11 years ago!) in a studio where I looked at a white wall during the class. I always learned to pick out a little scar on the wall, a nail hole or other mark, to focus on. This has always helped me balance and, in turn, gets me as close as I’m going to get to a meditative state. I think this is part of why I’ve never much liked Bikram. I can’t stand the mirror. I like the asana sequence, I like the heat, but I simply cannot bear watching myself. For me that is the opposite of what I want in a yoga class.

As I held warrior two last night, looking at the backward “a” in the word “thanks” decalled onto the window in the front of the room, I thought about the way drishti is just another form of the spotting that I learned in ballet as a child. I had a brief and undistinguished ballet career, followed by a similarly mediocre experiment with gymnastics (that culminated in, at sailing camp, a fall during a gymnastics meet, a broken arm, two full compound fractures of the bones, both sticking out of the skin … not pretty).

I didn’t stick with either ballet or gymnastics, but the metaphor of the practice of spotting stuck with me. This is, as you probably know, the way you turn your head very quickly while pirouetting, returning again and again to the same single gaze point in front of you. This helps keep you from getting dizzy and, again, helps you keep your balance.

There is enormous value in having a still point to rest our gaze. A focal point – whether it is a steady person or a clear sense of purpose – serves to settle us into our lives. I think I, maybe more than most, need this. Maybe this is because I spin more than most, who knows. I was reminded yesterday of how powerfully we each need to have something immovable in our lives, something we believe in absolutely. This thing helps us keep our balance as we pirouette through our days. This thing helps us as we hold poses in the moments of our life, aching and threatening to fall off of our precarious perch. We all need this sure and steady thing to anchor us in those moments when we feel unstable, feel the ground beneath us uneven.

9 thoughts on “Drishti”

  1. What a great post! I often use the analogy of our purpose is like the roots of a tree keeping us grounded. But I really like the idea of it being something that we are looking at and keep coming back to as we move through life. Thanks for making me think–I love that πŸ˜‰

  2. Wow. You know I am a sucker for a good metaphor… "I always learned to pick out a little scar on the wall, a nail hole or other mark, to focus on." Isn't this what life is about? Finding that little inconspicuous post on which to settle our roaming gaze? Isn't this what we all long for (and deeply), namely a focus, a purpose, a place to stand still in this dizzying world?

    And yet. I think there is something interesting here to pursue? That spot? That fixed spot? Whether it is parenthood or professional or personal passion, I think that spot is always shifting, even if we need to tell ourselves its fixed.

  3. Well, I'm gonna get a little goopy here about having something focal. For me it's my sweetie first and foremost. I wrote about this a few weeks ago on my blog, and I thought it was kinda lame. But then all these great readers put it all in another perspective for me.
    Also, I was a ballet dancer for many, many years, so spotting is something I know well. And I like your metaphor here. Very very much. So glad you have found a good "spot."

  4. This was a lovely read. I've never been able to meditate. I've never done yoga. But when you mentioned "spotting," I did an "ahhhhh, yes."

    I get that. For many years of dance, your eye on a focal point. Anything, but holding it to keep your balance as everything is spinning, but you're in control of the spin.


  5. The mirror. In Bikram. I hear you. But all the more reason to go. I wish we lived closer. I've been yearning to practice Bikram again.

    The question, for me, is what grounds you. Today it is family. I know that is general. But I'm not talking about my kids or my husband or my mother or my sister – not the individual relationships in my life that center me, but Family as whole. A capitalized word. A feeling.

    Of course, I did spend the weekend surrounded by kids – kids who are cousins and linked by more than their interests or sports teams. Kids who are linked by blood, and genes and union.

    Ask me tomorrow. I'll probably say that it's my blog. It's doing a whole lot of grounding for me these days. And of course you know why. πŸ™‚

  6. Linked here from Cheerio Road this morning & I'm enjoying reading. Drishti is one of my favorite things in yoga, and always helps me not only balance physically, but focus inward, too – something I'm so often forgetting to do when I'm working/mothering/facebooking/keeping up. Thanks for the reminder.

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