Thursday, 27 October 2022

Importance of Gaze ( Eyes ) In A Yoga Posture

 When we speak about Yoga-Asanas ( Yogic postures ), we tend to tunnel-vision our concern to bodily alignment alone.

 There are several components which constitute an asana. For example, we have the bandha ( body locks executed to enclose a particular surface anatomy which corresponds to a particular chakra ).





Other examples include mudra, pranayama etc

As such, dṛṣṭi ( gaze ) plays an important role in an asana. The verses and śloka-s which serve as pramāṇā-s ( authority ) stress on the importance of gaze too.

Let us look at a verse from Shiva samhita which describes padmāsana:

शास्त्र प्रमाण

Shiva Samhita  3.88 - 89

उत्तानौ चरणौ क्रत्वा ऊरूसंस्थौ प्रयत्नतः ।

ऊरूमध्ये तथोतानौ पाणी क्र्त्वा तु तादृशौ ॥

नासाग्रे विन्यसेदूदृष्टिं दन्तमूलञ्च जिह्व्या ।

उत्तोल्य चिबुकं वक्ष उत्थाप्य पवनं शनैः ॥

यथाशक्त्या समाक्र्ष्य पूरयेदुदरं शनैः ।

यथा शक्त्यैव पश्चात्तु रेचयेदविरोधतः ॥

इदं पद्मासनं प्रोक्तं सर्वव्याधिविनाशनम् ॥ 

दुर्लभं येन केनापि धीमता लभ्यते परम् ॥ 

uttānau caraṇau kratvā ūrūsaṃsthau prayatnataḥ ।
ūrūmadhye tathotānau pāṇī krtvā tu tādṛśau ॥
nāsāgre vinyasedūdṛṣṭiṃ dantamūlañca jihvyā ।
uttolya cibukaṃ vakṣa utthāpya pavanaṃ śanaiḥ ॥
yathāśaktyā samākrṣya pūrayedudaraṃ śanaiḥ ।
yathā śaktyaiva paścāttu recayedavirodhataḥ ॥
idaṃ padmāsanaṃ proktaṃ sarvavyādhivināśanam ॥ 
durlabhaṃ yena kenāpi dhīmatā labhyate param ॥ 

Translation:

Having crossed the legs, carefully place the foot on the contralateral thigh (i.e. the left foot on the right thigh, and vice versa); cross both hands and place them similarly on the thighs; fix the gaze on the tip of the nose, while pressing the tongue against the root of the teeth, (the chin should be elevated, the chest expanded) then draw the air slowly, fill the chest with all your might, and expel it slowly, in an unobstructed stream. It cannot be practiced by everybody; only the wise attain success in it. This asana destroys all diseases.

This elaborate śloka describes the point of focus for the gaze and it even speaks on prāṇāyāma. Of course, there are many versions of padmāsanā with their respective verses of reference.

Let us look at another example of an asana. This comes in the Śāṇḍilya Upaniṣad of the Atharva Veda. It is referred to as simhāsana.

Śāṇḍilya Upaniṣad   3.5 - 6

दक्षिणं सव्यगुल्फेन दक्षिणेन तथेतरम् ।

हस्त्औ च जान्वोः संस्थाप्य स्वाङ्गुलीश्च प्रसार्य च ॥ ५ ॥

व्यात्तवक्त्रो निरीक्षेत नासाग्रं सुसमाहितः ।

सिंहासनं भवेदेतत् पूजितं योगिभिः सदा ॥ ६ ॥

dakṣiṇaṃ savyagulphena dakṣiṇena tathetaram |

hastau ca jānvoḥ saṃsthāpya svāṅgulīśca prasārya ca ॥ 5 ॥

vyāttavaktro nirīkṣeta nāsāgraṃ susamāhitaḥ |

siṃhāsanaṃ bhavedetat pūjitaṃ yogibhiḥ sadā ॥ 6 ॥

Translation:

By pressing the right side of the frenulum with the left heel and vice versa, one should place both hands on the knees unilaterally, with the digits extended. His mouth is to be opened wide with stabilized body. His gaze should be fixed on the nose tip. This is the simhāsana, adored by the Yogi-s.

The Significance of Gaze

 The well-known importance of gaze is always associated with Dhāraṇā ( focus ) which leads one to a meditative state.

 The eyes also hold another important facility. It can be consecrated to transmit energy.

 In Shaiva Tantra, we refer to a kriyā called Nirīkṣaṇa ( Nirīkṣaṇa comes in the simhāsana mantra we saw earlier also ) First, we perform the sakalikaranam or nyāsa in which we energize our hands and consecrate ( to turn into divine ) our physical body into that of Shiva. This include consecration of the eyes. So by the end of a proper authentic nyasa, our eyes are consecrated into that of Lord Shiva's 

 In Nirīkṣaṇa, we consecrate, energise or purify an entity through the gaze alone. For instance, in a Shaiva homa, we do Nirīkṣaṇa to Agni to consecrate and purify Him.


 The eyes play a very important role in Tantra and Yoga. This is also why a gaze is readily used for the wrong purpose. For instance, to charm someone.

Variations in Asana 

Now, just because your teacher did not emphasize gaze in your padmāsana, it doesn't mean you are misconducting the asana. There are a myriad variations in each asana and there are many verses for a common asana.

Let us just look at the popular śīrṣāsana. A verse comes in the Nathamuni's Yoga Rahasya  1.53- 54, 2.13,18

विपरीतं मण्डलं च द्विधैव विदितं हि नः ।
दण्डासनं द्विधा प्रोक्तं विपरीतोपवेशने ॥
सर्वाङ्गशीर्षभागास्तु षट्षष्टिः प्रथितास्तु ते ।

viparītaṃ maṇḍalaṃ ca dvidhaiva viditaṃ hi naḥ ।
daṇḍāsanaṃ dvidhā proktaṃ viparītopaveśane ॥
sarvāṅgaśīrṣabhāgāstu ṣaṭṣaṣṭiḥ prathitāstu te ।

The last verse, ( sarvāṅgaśīrṣabhāgāstu ṣaṭṣaṣṭiḥ prathitāstu te ) proclaims that there are 66 variations of sarvangāsana and śīrṣāsana.

śīrṣāsana by Jey Thakur, Malaysia.

The Ultimate Union

 May the authentic Yoga sampradaya flourish and lead us to the ultimate union - the ultimate purpose.

 As revealed by the śruti-s, let Yoga lead us to the realisation that we are verily ātma, which is verily the absolute Brahman - God.

अथ कस्मादुच्यते आत्मेति। यस्मात्सर्वमाप्नोति सर्वमादत्ते सर्वमत्ति च तस्मादुच्यते आत्मेति ॥

atha kasmāducyate ātmeti। yasmātsarvamāpnoti sarvamādatte sarvamatti ca tasmāducyate ātmeti ॥

Śāṇḍilya Upaniṣad, Atharva Veda

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