Tristana is the foundation of the practice of ashtanga yoga. As such, it is a tool to help cultivate the ultimate presence of mind, focus, and stability. Tristana consists of three parts: Ujjayi breath (victorious breath), the bandhas (energy locks), and drsti (yogic gaze).
These three tools transform our asana (physical) practice from a simple body exercise into a total mind-body experience. Tristana helps us go from a huffing and puffing workout into a graceful flow. The three essential pieces of tristana unite the actions of body and mind, using dharana (concentration) to allow the practice to become meditative.
Tristana Consists of Three Elements: Ujjayi Breath, Bandhas, and Drsti
The three elements of tristana are important and powerful on their own, but even more so when they work together. Focusing on our breath while keeping a steady gaze and using our energy locks increases the benefits of our practice. The sum of the three functioning together – Tristana – equates to more than each one of them apart.
Ujjayi – Victorious Breath
One of the most important aspects of tristana and of yoga in general is breathing. The fundamental technique of yogic breathing is ujjayi breath, or “victorious” breath. It is the foundation for many pranayama techniques, as well as an important practice on its own.
Ujjayi breath slows down and lengthens the breath. By filling up the lungs entirely, we increase lung capacity and help increase the supply of oxygen to the muscles. Ujjayi breath is a point of concentration for the mind that aids us in the practice of pratyahara (withdrawal of the senses). Focusing on the breath keeps the mind steady and calm, especially when poses get challenging.
Bandhas – Power Centers
The bandhas are a cornerstone of all physical yoga practice (asana) and a proud member of tristana.
Bandha means to bind or to lock. Though it may seem a bit counterintuitive, these locks actually activate the flow of energy in the body, moving prana from the base of the spine seat into the 72,000 nadis (energy channels) of the body. You can think of bandhas as energy centers. As we create these locks, we are activating energy throughout the body, and locking it so it does not escape from the body.
The bandhas are key in asana practice. Beyond the energy flow in the body, which of course helps the energy of the pose, the bandhas also help create support for the spine and lower back during transitions. Using bandhas creates “lightness” and grace in some of the more challenging poses, such as arm balances or jump-throughs.
Drsti – Yogic Gaze or Point of Focus
The yogic gaze, or drsti, is the third (and very important) part of Tristana. It is the direction we look at and the focus we maintain as we keep awareness on what we are seeing. Drsti is pronounced drishti.
The practice of drsti, or yogic gaze, is used to help us practice both focus and stability. It leads us to the concentration needed to for balance and helps control the tendency to wander around following our senses. Drsti is a perfect aid in the practice of pratyahara (withdrawal of the senses). It also initiates the practice of dharana (concentration).
Tristana is a power combo tool to elevate your practice to a new level. It will help you step into a practice that is graceful and at ease. Practicing tristana sets you on the road to a satvic and blissful existence. Practice it diligently and you may find that it will stick with you off the mat as well. Enjoy!
Thanks for reading! To learn more about Tristana and how it can be used in your yoga practice, please join us for a yoga retreat or yoga teacher’s training at the Doron Yoga and Zen Center in Guatemala.