I’ve heard it said that the yoga postures we hate the most are probably the ones we need the most.
For me, these are always the standing balance poses like tree, airplane and dancer. Balance does not come easily for me. I like to have both feet on the ground. But, the only way to improve my balance, to get physically stronger on one leg, to trust my body to hold me—even when I’m afraid of falling—is to push past my comfort zone. I have learned to feel the fear, to witness my legs shaking and do it anyway.
Whenever we begin a balance sequence, we are reminded to “find our drishti.” Drishti is a Sanskrit word for a point of focus. It’s a place to set your gaze while in a posture to help you concentrate and focus your awareness. This, in combination with the support of your breath, allows you to overcome your fear of falling, to feel the shaking of your leg, to engage your core, and hold the posture much longer than you thought you could.
When we are on the mat, we have to choose our drishti carefully. We can’t just look at that whole great big wall over there—it’s too big to create the focus we need. We have to choose a little, tiny piece of the wall: a light switch, an imperfection in the paint, perhaps a door knob.
Placing our attention on that precise place will help us create the concentration required to hold the pose.
As we flow from pose to pose, our drishti will need to shift with us. We will need to find a dark little knot in the wood floor when our gaze is turned down, or the corner of the light fixture when we turn to the ceiling. Sometimes we can choose to fix our eyes on our own body—our thumbnail, our big toe—a piece of us that is stable, unwavering.
We cannot, however, set our drishti on the person on the mat in front of us, or to the left or right. We cannot set our drishti on our instructor. Because, if they begin to sway, we lose our focus. If they step out of the pose, our concentration is gone.
If they fall, we fall with them.
As with most things that are true on my yoga mat, this applies in my life as well.
Balance can be a difficult thing for me to achieve. I’m a single mom with a busy corporate job and a writing career. I volunteer in my community, I dance and practice yoga, and have a laundry list of household responsibilities to keep up with, relationships to maintain, and things I want to do every day.
If I try to focus on all of these things at once, I’m not really focused at all.
It’s too big—like the whole wall in the studio.
To find balance, I can’t look at everything on my list at the same time. I have to choose one thing at a time, and give all of my attention to it. This practice of mindfulness creates the same focus—the same ability to push through the task at hand—as choosing to look at one little screw in the track for the sliding doors instead of the entire wall. My careful concentration on each piece of my life is the only thing that can create balance, and therefore, success, happiness, and peace.
In some situations, I need to focus my attention squarely on myself. If I ever want to accomplish all of the tasks on my list, I have to make sure my needs are met. This is being mindful of my need for good nutrition, staying properly hydrated, allowing time for adequate rest and checking in with myself to see how I’m doing emotionally and managing my stress. It’s making sure that I’m creating balance between work and play—taking time out to enjoy my life so I don’t burn out working too much.
Like turning my eyes to my outstretched finger tips, focusing on me helps me tune in and figure out what I need in each moment to feel my best, be the most productive, and create the most happiness for myself.
Staying focused on each present moment is the only way I can create the life I most desire. Placing my focus on the events of the world only creates anxiety, stress and frustration. Focusing on the pain of my past will keep me stuck there. Focusing on my fears will paralyze me, and keep me from stepping out of my comfort zone. Placing too much of my focus on other people—their feelings, opinions, problems, needs, experiences and limitations can really only keep from being mindful of my own thoughts, feelings, needs, desires and goals.
My stability, my strength, my balance, safety and comfort in this life have to come from inside.
In every moment, I have the ability to choose to focus on the things that are beneficial—things that bring me the peace and joy I desire. By focusing my attention on the things I want—the things that feel good to my soul, I experience more joy, more gratitude and more love in my life. Truly, having the right focus has been the largest factor in changing my life, and becoming the happy, heathy person I am today.
On or off the mat, we have to choose our point of focus carefully. It is only through mindful focus that we can create the life we want. When we focus on all of the wonderful things in our lives, we create more wonderful things. Focusing on our desired outcome helps us push past the fear, to feel the shaking leg without giving up. Focusing on what we need in each moment to be our best, will always lead to happiness, success, peace, and love.
Nothing is impossible with mindful focus—we have the power to overcome, create, and attain all that we desire.
All we have to do is find that focus, and breathe.
Author: Renée Dubeau
Editor: Renée Picard
Image: Eugene Kim at Flickr