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.