The practice of Drsti, or yogic gaze, is one of the three pillars of Tristana, and is used to help us practice both focus and stability. It leads us to the concentration needed to keep us balanced 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), and it initiates the practice of dharana (concentration).
Training the gaze not only helps with focus during out practice, but actually helps us go deeper into the pose, such as in twists when we take our gaze to the side we are twisting towards. Other times the gaze helps us stay grounded. In the case of supine twists, when we take the gaze in the direction opposite of the legs, the gaze helps to ground the opposite shoulder and aids in getting a fuller twist in the entire back. Keeping your gaze at a prescribed point is not as important as keeping it very steady and aware.
There are nine drsti points, and each pose has its own prescribed drsti. For each pose, keep your gaze on the prescribed point, but soften the eyes and do not focus so intently that you lose awareness of your body. Following are the nine drstis, and a short description of each.
Nasagrai refers to the nose tip, center of ida and pingala nadis as in uttanasana and prasarita padottanasana. This is the drsti that is used most often. It is more about looking in the direction of the nose than actually at the exact tip of the nose. Otherwise you would become cross-eyed.
Broomadhya refers to the third eye (Ajna chakra), as in ardha uttanasana and urdhva mukha svanasana. Look slightly up and to the center. This drsti helps us maintain a deeper focus and cultivate a stronger spiritual practice.
Nabi Chakra refers to the navel or belly, as in adho mukha svanasana (downward-facing dog). Nabi Chakra helps activate uddiyanabandha.
Hastagrai refers to the hands, as in trikonasana. Looking towards your hand helps further open the chest.
Padhayorarai refers to the toes, such as in parsvottonasana. Extending our gaze towards the toes helps lengthen the spine.
Parsva drsti refers to the far left or far right as in marichyasana C and D. Not only do you get to stretch your neck, you also get to deepen the twist.
Angusta Ma Dyai
Angusta ma dyai refers to the thumbs as in urdhva hastasana. We can also follow the hands as we shift between poses to help maintain the focus and steadiness.
Urdhva drsti means upward gaze as in utkatasana. Taking the gaze up helps extend the spine and open the heart. Make sure not to compress in the neck while taking the gaze up.