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softening my gaze

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yoga workshopI had the opportunity recently to study with some of the greats in the yoga community. My Christmas gift from my boss at ReFlex Arts was a weekend in Miami at a Rodney Yee and Colleen Saidman workshop. One word: Amazing!

There was so much information shared. They instructed on poses and breath, led wonderful guided meditations, chanted and spoke of yoga philosophy. I was particularly struck by the energetic conversation. Many of the poses were basic but we were able to tune into a more subtle energy and focus. One of the recurring themes of the weekend was drishti, or gaze. Where are we looking? Where is our focus? I am very familiar with this practice and I often talk about it in my classes. The idea that our attention follows our eyes, that where the gaze goes, the body and mind will follow. What was new and really cool to me was incorporating an element of pratyahara into drishti. Pratyahara is the fifth step or limb in the system of yoga according to the Yoga Sutra of Patanjali (the most ancient and revered sourcebook for yoga practice). Pratyahara is defined as “the conscious withdrawal of energy from the senses.” I have been able to experience this when in deep meditation or in that space between being awake and being asleep. I may notice lights, sounds and sensations but they don’t disturb my stillness. This wasn’t something that I could easily slip into until this workshop. More than once we were told to “pull your eyes to the back of your head.” “Don’t have your eyes bulging out of the front of your head.” Something within these repeated instructions clicked with me. I was able to withdrawal and soften my gaze. Not only that, but I was able to withdrawal the other senses as well by thinking of them moving deeper into my body.

I may have moved through triangle pose one thousand times but I found something deeper this time. Practicing a pratyahara inspired drishti made a world of difference and I have been able to take the practice into my life and bring a softer gaze to areas of struggle and resistance. Pulling my attention inward, where the true answers are, and seeing things from a different perspective is always a step in the right direction.

Balancing tip-Where is your gaze? What are you focusing on? Where the gaze goes, the body and mind will follow. What is on your TV? What are the lyrics to the songs you listen to? If you are a parent of young children, what are your children focusing on? It may be interesting to take a day or two and notice what you are letting into your soul. Namaste.

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