The science behind quiet eye and Drishti within yoga practice. By Dawn Morse, senior yoga teacher.
Drishti (or Dristi) is a gazing technique used within yoga practice to help develop concentration of the mind.
As this technique is developed it can help to turn your yoga practice into a moving meditation and deepen
Along with focusing on a specific point, Drishti, or our gaze point and vision, also help to generate our body’s motor commands within the nervous system and can therefore help to develop our movement patterns and coordination, which is obviously important in yoga practice.
Research in visual gaze and motor control (Visuomotor control) has become an increasingly popular field of study within sports such as football, rugby and golf. More recently, developments within these fields have lead to the understanding of visual eye tracking and so-called ‘quiet eye’.
The term ‘quiet eye’ means ‘the final fixation point’ of eye tracking. In yoga practice this is referred to as Drishti, and is the gaze point whilst holding 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 again can be of benefit within yoga.
Quiet eye has been demonstrated in action regularly by athletes such as Owen Farrell, taking goal or conversion kicks during a rugby game. In these instances, Farrell 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 (Adho Mukha Svanasana), the jump through or jumping up into a handstand, for instance.
When jumping forward from Downward Dog into the Standing Forward Bend (Uttanasana), your gaze should first 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 Drishti) 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, it 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 practice, but it will help to develop coordination and a smooth transition – and is fun whilst doing so.
Dawn Morse is a senior yoga teacher and runs Core Elements – Yoga and Massage Therapy Training (coreelements.uk.com)