The term ‘Drishti’ comes from a Sanskrit term meaning ‘sight.’ It usually refers to the gazing technique often practiced when holding a particular yoga pose, though it can also be used during meditation to aid in the withdrawal of senses, and the improvement of focus.
It is used to refer to the fifth limb of yoga, ‘pratyahara,’ as well as dharana, the sixth limb which focuses on concentration. It can work as a method of developing concentrated intention, helping the practitioner work with mantras and intentions more efficiently, as well as aiming for that higher level of concentration and consciousness.
Within the practice of yoga, there are a total of nine drishtis. These usually come with a corresponding asana, such as:
Nasagrai drishti: the nose tip (standing forward fold)
Bhrumadhye drishti: the Ajna chakra, or between the eyebrows (fish pose)
Nabi chakra drishti: the navel (downward-facing dog pose)
Angusthamadhye: the thumb (upward salute pose)
Hastagrai drishti: the hands (triangle pose)
Parsva drishti: the right side (Bharadvaja's twist pose)
Parsva drishti: the left side (All twist poses)
Padayoragrai drishti: the toes (seated forward bend)
Urdhva drishti: upward (warrior one pose)
There are both physical and mental benefits to the practice of drishti. It can be instrumental in checking and improving alignment within the postures and helps the individual to focus more closely on achieving the shape.
Perhaps more important are the mental benefits to the concept; it can help to improve clarity and focus during the practice, by encouraging the practitioner to look further, looking beyond the obvious and into a higher level of awareness and consciousness.
For this reason, it can also be useful in meditation, particularly those which focus on breathing. The emphasis on sight, and what is seen and not seen, is essential in the study and practice of yoga.