Dristi (pronounced dra-sh-ti, all syllables compressed; also spelt Dhristi or Dhristhi) is where your gaze is in Yoga. It is the point or area where you maintain your gaze on. In any posture or asana, Dristi is required. The reason is to still the mind. As your gaze stays on the point, you can ‘let go’ of your insides thus releasing and relaxing them. This enables you to feel the energy flowing more easily. If you didn’t have Dristi you are letting your mind wander and not be in the present moment. Different asanas have different points you can focus on and each asanas not necessarily has one fixed dristi.
The one legged bird or Tree posture becomes easier if you maintain your gaze on the ground 5-6 feet away. You use that point as though you hang onto it for that single point of balance or focus; by doing so you can effortlessly relax the leg on which you are standing. In the Triangle posture, the tips of the fingers of the outstretched hand is where your Dristi lies. When practicing the Seated Twist, the Dristi can be on the navel or Manipura Chakra or the Ajna Chakra – between the eyebrows. In short, Dristi gives your mind to stay focused.
Dristi doesn’t mean your mind shouldn’t do anything else but to rest there. As you assume the posture, you first work your body to relax where they need to (usually most of the body), assume the correct position, make sure your breathing is well and then turn to maintaining Dristi.
Dristi also helps you practice or prepare for Pratyahara – the practice of Raja Yoga where you withdraw the senses. In the modern world, we are used to overuse our senses all the time. The practice of Pratyahara teaches you to use your senses to the extent required and thus not become slaves to our senses. By practising Dristi, you are controlling your focus and thereby withdraing your senses.