I have never practiced with late K Patthabi Jois. But there is one of his teachings I continue to come back to on and off my yoga mat: “Pose, Breath, Drishti” (drishti = focused gaze).
His three short guidelines, also called Tristhana, which he used to teach in aphorisms, make absolute sense for the physical yoga practice:
You concentrate on a pose to make sure your body stays healthy and safe. You concentrate on a pose to challenge yourself and get deeper into it. To breathe steadily and deeply helps you to stay in the pose, to calm down your monkey mind and to supply your muscles with oxygen.Drishti supports the alignment of the body. Focusing on a certain spot, like the tip of your nose or your big toe, prevents your gaze from wandering off: checking on the others in the room, picking on the fluff between your toes, or looking at your phone.
Over time I came to understand that “Pose, Breath, Drishti” makes a lot of sense in life off the mat, too:
Concentrating on a pose, aka life situation means to not over- or underdo it, to make modifications according to your personal needs, and to make sure nobody else gets hurts. Breathing helps us to stay in the present moment and do the best we can whatever we are up to right now. Drishti is a means for developing concentrated intention. Lifting your intentions by focusing on a personal drishti or goal adds sense to your life.
When I lose my own focus I tend to look at other people’s careers, or poses, and I try to imitate them. Usually when I do that, I get “hurt” in a figurative sense. I get into poses that are not specific to, and healthy for, me. Breathing, staying in the present moment, helps me to be content. Breathing off the mat makes me appreciate my home, food, the weather, my friends, my loved ones, my work etc. When I forget to breathe I tend to think and to worry about my future at all times.
While on the yoga mat I may focus on my navel, off the mat I focus on why I am doing what I am doing and who I want to be in life. Drishtis help me to focus where I really want to go, and to align my actions with my life values.