Friday, 28 February 2014

Krishnamacharya on Drishti, the gaze

I've included asana descriptions only up to the point in which Krishnamacharya mentions the gaze ( in Yoga Makaranda parts I and II, gaze is mentioned (or translated rather than gaze).

I've highlighted in Bold where drishti is mentioned. As we can see it's nearly always at the tip f the nose or between the eyebrows.

Krishnamacharya on Drishti
from Krishnamacharya’s Yoga Makaranda 
“When I explain the rules of yogasana, if the position of the head has not been specified, then keep the head in jalandara bandha. Similarly, if it does not specify where to place the gaze, then the gaze should be directed towards the midbrow. If the position of the hands has not been specified, then the hands should be kept as in siddhasana. Whenever there is a krama where some part of the body has to be held with the hand, and the placement of the hand has not been described, hold the relevant part of the body with the first three fingers of the hand (including the thumb). Make sure to remember this.
When practising the asanas, it is important to do both the right and left sides. First practise the right side and then the left side. If you don’t do this, the strength of yoga will not reach all parts of the body”. p26
1 Uttanasana (Figure 4.1, 4.2, 4.3, 4.4, 4.5, 4.6, 4.7)
Following the rules for tadasana (yogasana samasthiti krama) (Figure 4.1, 4.2), stand erect. Afterwards, while exhaling the breath out slowly, bend the upper part of the body (that is, the part above the hip) little by little and place the palms down by the legs. The knees must not be even slightly bent. Raise the head upwards and fix the gaze on the tip of the nose…..
8 Pascimattanasana or Pascimottanasana (Figure 4.19 — 4.28)
This asana has many kramas. Of these the first form has 16 vinyasas. Just doing the asana sthiti by sitting in the same spot without doing these vinyasas will not yield the complete benefits mentioned in the yoga sastras. This rule applies to all asanas.
The first three vinyasas are exactly as for uttanasana. The 4th vinyasa is caturanga dandasana, the 5th vinyasa is urdhvamukhasvanasana, the 6th vinyasa is adhomukhasvanasana. Practise these following the earlier instructions. In the 6th vinyasa, doing puraka kumbhaka, jump and arrive at the 7th vinyasa. That is, from adhomukhasvanasana sthiti, jump forward and move both legs between the arms without allowing the legs to touch the floor. Extend the legs out forward and sit down. Practise sitting like this with the rear part of the body either between the two hands or 4 angulas in front of the hands. It is better to learn the abhyasa krama from a guru. In this sthiti, push the chest forward, do puraka kumbhaka and gaze steadily at the tip of the nose…
17 Utthitahasta Padangushtasana (Figure 4.49, 4.50, 4.51)
First, push the chest forward and stand erect with equal balance. While standing this way, make sure that the head, neck, back, hips, arms and legs are aligned properly and gaze at the tip of the nose. 
18 Baddhapadmasana (Figure 4.52, 4.53, 4.54, 4.55)
Place the right foot on top of the left thigh and the left foot on top of the right thigh. Take the hands behind the back and tightly clasp the big toe of the right foot with the first three fingers of the right hand and tightly clasp the big toe of the left foot with the first three fingers of the left hand.
Press the chin firmly against the chest. Keep the gaze fixed on the midbrow. Sit down, keeping the rest of the body straight. This has the name baddhapad- masana. This asana must be repeated on the other side (that is, first place the left foot on top of the right thigh and then the right foot on top of the left thigh) in order to exercise both sides of the body.
This has 16 vinyasas. The 8th and 9th vinyasas are the asana sthiti. The other vinyasas are like pascimottanasana. Study the pictures (Figures 4.52, 4.53) and learn how to keep the gaze. In this asana, one must do puraka kumbhaka. Only in yoga mudra sthiti should one do recaka. This sthiti consists of two forms — so study the pictures (Figures 4.54, 4.55) carefully.
26 Niralamba Sarvangasana (Figure 4.70)
This has 14 vinyasas. The 8th vinyasa is the asana sthiti. The form depicted in the picture is the 8th vinyasa. This is niralamba sarvangasana paristhiti. In order to get to this sthiti, slowly raise the arms and legs either together or one-by- one in the 7th vinyasa . Do only recaka at this time. Never do puraka kumbhaka.
At this time the chin should be pressed against the chest. The gaze should be fixed on the midbrow
27 Ekapada Sirsasana (Figure 4.71, 4.72)
This has two forms: dakshina ekapada sirsasana and vama ekapada sirsasana. Both these forms together have 18 vinyasas. The first picture depicts dakshina ekapada sirsasana and the second picture vama ekapada sirsasana. The 7th and 12th vinyasas are the asana sthitis of these dierent forms. For this asana, you need to do sama svasauchvasam (same ratio breathing). In the 7th vinyasa, the left leg, and in the 12th vinyasa the right leg, should be extended and kept straight from the thigh to the heel. No part should be bent.
Keep the hands as shown in the picture. In this sthiti one needs to do equal ra- tio breathing. When the hands are joined together in ekapada sirsasana paristhiti, one must do puraka kumbhaka. One must never do recaka.
While doing the 7th and the 12th vinyasas, the head must be raised and the gaze must be fixed at the midbrow.
32 Bhairavasana (Figure 4.78)
This has 20 vinyasas. The 8th and the 14th vinyasas are the right and left side asana sthitis.
From the 1st until the 7th vinyasa, follow the method for ekapada sirsasana. In the 8th vinyasa, instead of keeping the hands at the muladhara cakra (as in ekapada sirsasana), hug both arms together tightly as seen in the picture and lie down looking upwards. While remaining here, do puraka kumbhaka, raise the neck upwards and gaze at the midbrow.
33 Cakorasana (Figure 4.79)
This has 20 vinyasas. This is from the Kapila Matham.
After observing that this follows the form of flight of the cakora bird, this came to be called cakorasana. In the Dhyana Bindu Upanishad, Parameshwara advises Parvati that “There are as many asanas as there are living beings in the world”. We readers must always remember this. The 8th and 14th vinyasas are this asana’s sthitis. The 7th and the 13th vinyasas are like the 7th and the 13th vinyasas of ekapada sirsasana. In the 8th and the 14th vinyasas, press the palms of the hand firmly into the ground, do puraka kumbhaka, raise the body 6 angulas o the ground and hold it there. Carefully study the picture where this is demonstrated. Keep the gaze fixed on the midbrow. The other vinyasas are like those of bhairavasana.
34 Skandasana (Figure 4.80, 4.81)
This has 20 vinyasas. The 8th and the 14th vinaysas show the asana sthiti. The other vinaysas are exactly as for cakorasana. In pascimottanasana, we hold the big toes with the fingers of the hands as we place the face down on the knees. In this asana, instead of doing that, extend the arms out further forward, clasp the hands together in the manner of prayer, slowly bend the body forward and place the face down in front of the kneecap. You must do recaka in this sthiti. The gaze must be fixed on the midbrow.
35 Durvasasana (Figure 4.82)
This has 20 vinyasas. The 8th vinyasa is right-side durvasasana and the 14th vinyasa is left-side durvasasana. In the 7th and the 13th vinyasas stay in ekapada sirsasana sthiti. From there, in the 8th and the 14th vinyasas, get up and stand. Study the picture carefully. While remaining in this asana sthiti, the leg that is being supported on the ground must not be even slightly bent and must be held straight. Keep the gaze fixed at the middle of the nose.
37 Trivikramasana (Figure 4.85)
This has 7 vinyasas. From the 1st to the 5th vinyasas and then the 7th vinyasa, practise following those for utthita hasta padangushtasana. Practise the 2nd and 7th vinyasas as shown in the picture (study it carefully) and remain in these positions. The 2nd vinyasa is the right-side trivikramasana sthiti. The 6th vinyasa as shown is the left-side trivikramasana sthiti. The picture shown here only demonstrates the left-side trivikramasana. It is important that equal recaka and puraka kumbhaka must be carefully observed while practising this asana. Keep the gaze fixed on the midbrow.
38 Gandabherundasana (Figure 4.86, 4.87)
This has 10 vinyasas. The 6th and 7th vinyasas show the asana sthiti. The first picture shows the 6th vinyasa and the second picture shows the 7th. In the
4th vinyasa, come to caturanga dandasana sthiti and in the 5th vinyasa proceed to viparita salabasana sthiti. In the 6th vinyasa, spread the arms out wide, keeping them straight like a stick (like a wire) as shown in the picture. Take the soles of both feet and place them next to the ears such that the heels touch the arms and keep them there.
Next, do the 7th vinyasa as shown in the second picture. This is called supta ganda bherundasana. In this asana sthiti and in the preliminary positions, do equal recaka puraka kumbhaka. Keep the gaze fixed on the midbrow.

from Yoga makaranda ‘Part II’
1. Kneel on the ground. Now place the forearms on the ground in front parallel to each other and about 12 inches apart. The elbows should be about 12 inches in front of the knees. The palms with fingers stretched and close together should be touching the ground. 2. Raise the head. Lift the knees slightly from the ground. Inhale deeply, hold the breath, jump and take the legs above, so that the body is balanced on the forearms. Spread the legs. The legs are bent backward so that the leg is in the form of a bow.
3. Cross the legs as in Padmasana. Take one or two deep breaths. There should be no retention of breath. The eyes should gaze at the midpoint of the eye brows.
  1. Sit erect, with both legs stretched in front. 
  2. Bend one leg, say the right, at the knees, and place the foot of the right leg on the left 
thigh, so that the heel of the right foot is as near the naval as possible. The tendency of the stretched leg to twist to the left should be resisted. The foot of the left leg should be perpendicular to the ground. The knees should not be more than 12 inches apart.
3. Exhale slowly, and twist the trunk to the left, keeping the spine erect. Take the left hand behind the back so that the fingers of the left hand may catch hold of the right leg at the shin, just above the ankle.
  1. Twist the head to the left so that the chin is above the left shoulder. 
  2. The right hand is stretched and the outside of the left foot is caught hold of by the 
palm of the right hand. The fingers of the right hand should touch the sole of the left foot. In this position the shoulder blades and right arms will be in a straight line.
6. The eyes should gaze at the tip of the nose in the case of married people. In the case of those who are unmarried the gaze may be to the midpoint of the eyebrows.
This asana is the counter pose to the ARDHA MATSYENDRASANA - Section A, and should be done immediately after that asana.
1. Sit upright, with both legs stretched in front. Bend one of the legs, say the right, at the knee and place the foot on the left thigh as high as possible. The heel should be as near the navel as possible. Now bend the left leg at the knee and place the left foot on the right thigh as high as possible, and the heel as near the navel as possible. The knees should be as close as possible and touch the ground.
2. Take the left arm around the back and catch hold of the toes of the left foot by the right hand. Next, take the right hand behind the back and catch hold of the toes of the right foot by the fingers of the right hand.
Note: Which hand is taken round first is important. In the position described above, it will be observed that the LEFT leg is crossed over the right leg, and it is the LEFT arm that is taken round the round back first, to catch hold of the toes. When the asana is repeated on the other side, the right leg will be over the left leg and right arm will be taken round the back first.
3. Chin lock, chest forward. In the case of those who are married, the gaze should be to the tip of the nose, and in the case of the others the gaze should be to the midpoint of the eyebrows.
This mudra is so called, as in it, the JNANA INDRIYAS are sealed up. These are the external organs of sight, hearing, smell, taste, and speech, the ears, eyes, nose, and mouth. Technique:
1. Sit in any one of the sitting postures - PADMASANA, SVASTIKASANA, VAJRASANA etc. Spine erect, shoulders in line.
2. Place the thumbs to close the openings of the ears, the first and second fingers on the closed eyelids, the first finger above the eyeball and the second finger below the eyeball, the pressure should be light, the ring fingers at the side of the nostrils but without closing them, and the little fingers at the outer corners of the closed lips. The upper arms should be horizontal and in line with the shoulders. Chest should be raised and the stomach drawn in. Note: In the beginning of the practice, it is enough if the thumbs close the ear holds; at the next stage of the practice, the small flaps over the ear holds, Tragees (?), should be pressed over the ear holds by the thumbs; and at the stage of advanced practice, the lobes of the ear should be folded over the flaps and both pressed over the ear holds by the thumbs, so as effectively to exclude all external noise.
The mudra should preferably be done in a dark room. The room should be pleasant and cool and sweet smelling. A few incense sticks may be kept burning. One should sit facing in such a manner that at the end of the Mudra, when the eyes are slowly opened, cool breeze lays on the eyes.
Pranayama siddhi is to be attained before starting on the practice of this mudra.
The order in which the fingers are placed on the various organs is given below. First ears holes are closed, then the first and second fingers placed gently on the closed eyelids, then the ring fingers on the sides of the nostrils, and lastly the little fingers at the corners of the mouth. The eyes should internally gaze at a point midway between the eyebrows, and imagine and concentrate on a spot of light there.
5. Take long deep breaths, with hissing sound in the throat.
Note: During the first week practice for a minute, the second week for two minutes and slowly raise the duration to a maximum of five minutes. More than this period of 5 minutes can be practiced only by recluses, it is not for those in ordinary life.
There is also a variation of this mudra where the fingers are not used for closing the organs to exclude external stimuli, but this is for advanced students.
It gives additional benefit if the eyes are washed before the exercise with a slightly warm lotion made of water in which a very small crystal of refined camphor is dissolved.
4. The fingers are removed in the reverse order. First the little fingers then the ring fingers then the first and second fingers and last the thumbs. The eyes are very slowly opened, the internal gaze brought down to gaze at the tip of the nose, and the gaze slowly raised to the middle distance and then to the level as the eyes are fully opened. As mentioned in the second note under step 2, it should be arranged for cool breeze to play on the open eyes at this time. It is important that there should be no abrupt opening of the eyes, as this is extremely harmful.
This forms the seventh step in ASHTANGA YOGA. It has advisedly been placed thus, as a proper practice. Progress and benefit in this step is ensured only by systematically following the previous steps: YAMA, NIYAMA, ASANA, PRANAYAMA, etc.
It is futile to attempt the practice of DHYANA without first strengthening the JNANA- INDRIYAS or higher organs of perception which are to be used in this practice. In its turn the strengthening of the higher organs of perception requires a healthy body capable of proper circulation of rich blood and pure air in these organs and of healthy nerves. This can be achieved only by the regular and systematic practice of asana, PRANAYAMA, wholesome and bland food (SATVIC FOOD) taken in moderation, proper frame of mind (NIYAMA), proper practices in physical cleanliness (YAMA), and preservation of vitality (BRAHMACARYA).
When once a fair proficiency has been attained in asana and pranayama, the aspirant to dhyana has to regulate the time to be spent on each and choose the particular asanas and pranayama which will have the most effect in strengthening the higher organs and centres of perception and thus aid him in attaining dhyana.
The best asanas to choose for this purpose are SIRSHASANA and SARVANGASANA. These are to be done with proper regulated breathing and with bandhas. The eyes should be kept closed and the eye balls rolled as if they are gazing at the space between the eyebrows. It is enough if 16 to 24 rounds of each are done at each sitting.

As DHYANA is practiced in one of the following sitting postures, these asanas should also be practiced, to strengthen the muscles that come into play in keeping these postures steady. The eyes are kept closed and the eyeballs turned internally to gaze at the space between the eyebrows. If the eyes are kept open, the gaze is directed to the tip of the nose. It is enough if 12 rounds of each asana is done.