Yoga asana (movement) is much more than exercise. If practiced correctly it’s a moving meditation or a relaxation in action. Mindful, intelligent and structured movement is what separates asana from an exercise routine.
An understanding of the 5th limb of yoga “pratyahara” meaning ‘withdrawal of the senses’ is crucial in developing a yoga practice. Pratyahara forms a link between external and internal focus which moves the practitioner to higher states of concentration and meditation.
A technique used to develop focus and concentration is drishti or gaze point (conscious seeing), the drishti established reflects the alignment of the pose, there’s 9 drishti’s relating to various parts of the body, candles and mandala’s can also be used. If your eyes are darting around the room while your practicing your scattering your energy. Establishing drishti allows your mind to focus on a single point without distraction from other external stimulus. Where ever you focus your gaze (drishti) your energy (concentration) will naturally be directed to that place.
I’ve had a few interesting drishti fails in my classes. One person established a drishti on a billboard advertising pizza outside the studio, I realized her mind had definitely drifted from practice when she sat on her mat and ordered a pizza mid class. Another person thought that I was jealous of her because she felt her asana practice was superior to mine. It may well have been true but making that comment is ego driven and indicates a lack of understanding of the body-mind connection.
As you move through the various poses the bio-feedback from your body allows you to discover your inner world. Your trying to make your body comfortable in what you might be finding to be an uncomfortable position. Your assessing whether you can take yourself deeper or do you need to practice a modified version of the pose, do you need to come out of the pose completely, what sensations are you experiencing, where can you strengthen or relax your body, where can you direct your breath, have you established a gaze point.
The aim of asana practice is the body-mind connection, being present, being now! You can’t change the past it’s happened, you can’t live in the future, it hasn’t happened. What you have is the present moment. Yoga offers all the tools to live in the “now” particularly if you take your moving practices beyond the physical