I just had the most incredible experience.
I did yoga blindfolded. And it blew my mind!
If you’ve never done yoga before, that probably doesn’t seem like a big deal…but if you’re a yogi, you know what I mean when I say It’s a big deal.
And tonight, for me it was a really big deal.
Mind you, I wouldn’t have had this same experience at a studio practice; I’d never have thought to wear a blindfold in a group setting, first of all, and it may have scared or even embarrassed me to do so in that “public” space.
But, in the era of Covid-19, our awesome instructor Gina “comes into our homes,” providing instruction from her Zoom “studio.” So I practice “alone” in my home, with the sort-of company of other “distance yogis” peaking through my screen from their mats. And tonight, being home alone doing yoga on Zoom allowed me to take my practice to a whole other level.
Early on, Gina instructed us to “find our drishti,” as she often does when she sees us wobble or anticipates we might. Immediately I knew I was supposed to blog about drishti. Incredibly, at the same time, I was inspired to complete my practice blindfolded.
So I hopped up, grabbed my silk sleep mask, and got to it.
And…it was straight incredible!
Wait, you lost me at “drishti,” you might be thinking…
Drishti is a Sanskrit word which translates to “focused gaze” and has both literal and symbolic meaning and application.
In yoga, we choose points on the wall or floor (wherever really) to focus our eyes in balance poses – and these “points” are called drishtis, or rather the act of looking at them is called such. Drishti is sometimes referred to as the “yogic gaze.” To me, finding my drishti is akin to finding a tiny “space” for…shutting out the visual distractions of the world. Instead of watching fellow yogis or looking at our own potentially wobbly selves, we focus forward (and, sometimes, downward) at something…steady, something still.
And all of that, to me, is the literal stuff of drishti.
Tonight, I experienced another level of meaning in the word and its application. For me, the experience of practicing yoga without my sense of sight was spiritual. Visceral*. (Please read the definition below; it’s important!)
It involved “looking” forward and upward.
To avoid blabbing on and on about my experience (I could. It was that awesome!), I’ll summarize my “discoveries” as succinctly as I can:
(1) Any pose that requires balance (even some you might not expect) is much more difficult for a seeing person to do blindfolded (I’m suddenly very curious about yoga and blind people…). Tree pose, for instance, is one of my favorites – and I could hardly do it tonight!
(2) I’m much less aware of my physical body than I knew. At one point, it took me several seconds [and some direction from Gina] to find my own foot!
(3) I’m very susceptible to distraction from the world around me – like a dog when it sees a squirrel, as they say. My eyes wander…and so does my mind.
(4) The blindfold acted to turn my focus inward in a positive, productive way.
(5) The more time I spent blindfolded, the better equipped I felt to navigate the new “space.”
(6) My other senses were enhanced by my “loss” of sight. I heard the tick-tocking of my clock and the chirping of birds and tinkling of windchimes in Gina’s yard (lovely, all of it).
(7) Instead of looking at and even judging my body and its movements, I truly felt into every pose. I went as deep as was natural…then released into that space for further deepening. (The word “intuitive” comes to mind here. I practiced yoga intuitively tonight. “Taking my eyes off” my practice allowed me to tune into my body’s actual needs, capacity, and potential.)
(8) At the same time, freed from endless visual stimulation, my mind…slowed…down. In this sense, I journeyed toward a meditative state while actively participating in movement. (And that was an incredible sensation!)
(9) My movements were slow and deliberate, but I also didn’t…hesitate. I instinctively knew what I was doing and where I was going with my body (thought half the time I didn’t know where I was in relation to my mat, it didn’t matter). And, beyond that, I trusted my inner voice when it told me to blog about drishti and when it prompted me to blindfold.
(10) The experience was empowering, both physically and metaphysically. In my warrior pose, for the first time ever, my “front” arm tingled. I felt a sense of [my own] energy drawing me forward in both my practice and in the direction of whatever’s next for me in my journey, however yet unseen.
At one point in the practice, I recognized that my eyes were actually open under my mask…and yet, I hadn’t realized I couldn’t “see” because I had all the sense(s) I needed to guide me in the “darkness.” It was as though I experienced “seeing” without physical sight.
Yes! That’s exactly what is was, I recognize now – the stuff of the third eye.
(And that is why, at one point, I didn’t know if I was sweating or crying beneath my mask – because I was experiencing high vibrations of energy at the intuitive center of my sixth chakra and that was an emotional experience!)
What’s the “third eye?” you ask.
Anatomically, the third eye is “located” in the pineal gland in the vertebrate brain near the hypothalamus and pituitary gland (thank you, Gaia, for this insight beyond the scope of my limited scientific prowess!). In yoga [and ancient cultures more broadly], it’s considered the organ of “supreme universal connection,” a source of clarity, concentration, imagination, and intuition. Simply stated, the third eye is the space from which we see the world [and ourselves] with heightened awareness and innate wisdom; it’s our intuitive center, located above the bridge of the nose, between the brows.
Moving forward, I’ll consider the blindfold a useful tool for aiding me in “seeing past” my everyday vision and looking inward, outward, and upward through my intuitive third eye, both on my mat and, metaphorically, elsewhere in life. (In fact, I’ve written some of these words blindfolded and, thus, laser-focused on what matters in this moment. If you’re a writer, I recommend trying this “method!”)
I’ll definitely do more of what I’ll call “third eye yoga.” And 100% recommend you try it too!
(Yeah, it was that awesome!!)
*It’s important to know the meaning of this word in order to imagine my experience, so here’s its definition, brought to you by the Oxford English dictionary by way of Google, emphasized by me:
…relating to deep inward feelings rather than to the intellect