Jewish Journal


by Michelle Azar

November 16, 2012 | 7:13 pm

There is a Sanskrit word I like very much. Drsti. Pronounced DRISTI. It means vision. This word is often used during asana, posture, practice to remind students where to place their eyes. Each posture has a complementary focal point, for instance, in downward dog, one is to look at the naval. Sometimes the posture calls us to concentrate on the eyebrow center , sometimes the nose. I would be lying if I said I knew the significance of each focal point in relation to the posture, but I like to think there is real magic behind the direction of that vision.

My teacher long ago said our drsti is to us what the stick is to the elephant in the market place. It give us something to hold on to during practice so that our attention does not wander. The trunk of the elephant when occupied  does not reach out and grab at all the pretty bobbles around, but rather stays steady and on task as it moves forward.

So many things around us beg for our attention. It becomes more and more difficult to stay on track sometimes. Not only the immediate necessities, but the emotional world too vies is out there to tempt us away from our goal. One of my students noticed how deep his breath gets when he is really connected to drsti. His practice is erratic, but the drsti, complete. Full. The dark eyes of this businessman full with reflection of what drsti could mean in the world OFF the yoga mat, sometimes pop into my mind when I feel myself falter. The mornings that I jump absent-mindedly through some postures, or languidly without any conscious breath move through others, he offers me his Drsti.

And when bad news comes and I want to give in, his soulful observation of taking the drsti off the mat as they say, draws me in. There are many ways to say it. Just keep moving forward, the motto of many. But since I like this word so much, this Drsti, I figure I would offer it up this evening. In the face of much sorrow in the world right now, in the face of the earlier hours of darkness, the drsti can renew our hope.  Inhalation begins movement, and exhalation lets the movement settle.Through breath and the focus of the eyes, we can move deeper into stillness. Deeper into the vision of peace.

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Michelle fell in love with the practice of Ashtanga Yoga, the system of Hatha Yoga taught by Sri K. Pattabhi Jois, some 13 years ago while doing a play in San Francisco. Having...

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