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Quiet Eye and dristi within yoga

By Dawn Morse MSc
As published in Om Yoga and Lifestyle Magazine

Dristi is a gazing technique used within yoga practise to help develop a concentration of mind. As this technique is developed it can help to turn your yoga practice into a moving meditation and deepen your experience.

Along with focusing on a specific point dristi or our gaze point and vision also help to generate our bodies motor commands within the nervous system and can, therefore, help to develop our movement patterns and coordination, which is important in yoga practise.

Research in visual gaze and motor control (Visuomotor control) has become an increasingly popular field of study with sports such as football, rugby, and golf. More recently developments within these fields have led to the understanding of visual eye tracking and ‘Quiet Eye’.

The term ‘Quiet Eye’ means ‘the final fixation point’ of eye tracking. Within yoga, this is referred to as dristi, and is the gaze point whilst holing a yoga posture.
Within sports research eye tracking studies have found that tracking the gaze to a final position can help with targeting skills and movement coordination, which can be of benefit within yoga.

Quiet eye in action has been demonstrated regularly by televised athletes such as Owen Farrell taking goal or conversion kicks in Rugby. In these instances Owen can be clearly seen using eye tracking to follow the route of where the rugby ball currently is, to the cross bar and back again.

During this technique the route of the ball is tracked several times and then the final fixed gaze point (quiet eye) is selected and held for a couple of seconds before the kick is taken, in order to improve target accuracy and coordination of movement during the kick.

This visual technique can be adapted and used within yoga to help the development of coordination and technique in beginners and improvers to yoga, when completing more complex moves such as jumping forward from downward dog, the jump through or jumping up into a handstand for instance.

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When jumping forward from downward dog (Adho Mukha Svanasana) into the standing forward bend (Uttanasana),
your gaze should:

  • Focus on the position of your feet for a second or so.
  • Then track your gaze along the mat to the place where you would like your feet to land, such as in between your hands.
  • Rest your gaze at this second position for a second or so, and then track your gaze along the mat again back to your feet.
  • This should be repeated about three times when using the technique for the first few times. When you have finished tracking your gaze fix your final gaze point (quiet eye, or dristi) where you want your feet to land.
  • Then perform the jump without moving your gaze away from this landing point.
  • When jumping forwards ground your hands into the mat, bending your knees and lifting your hips as you draw your legs forward.

Once you have used this technique to help develop a smoother transition jumping forwards, the technique can be extended to help the development of the full jump through and the handstand when jumping up from downward dog against the wall.

It may take a bit of time to develop the use of this visual eye tracking technique with your yoga practise, but it will help to develop coordination a smooth transition and is fun whilst doing so.

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