So often in Kundalini yoga meditations or kriyas, we are told to focus our eyes on a specific point. We might shut our eyes and focus on the brow point (the space between the eyebrows), roll our eyes up to the crown chakra or down to the chin, focus our eyes on the tip of the nose or a few inches past the tip of the nose, keep our eyes open, or hold them 1/10th open. What is the purpose of these eye focuses?
Called Drishti by ancient yogis, it is the science of eye focus. Meaning “pure seeing”, drishti is to the eyes what asana is to the body. Correct drishti helps keep the body in the correct posture and the mind focused on the task at hand. Eye focuses direct prana in the body. Correct drishti is important, so when you are reading your Kundalini yoga kriya, you should take care to follow the eye focus instructions. There are examples where it is said that improper drishti is harmful (such as in shoulder stand, where you should not look left or right, but at the chest).
Eye focus varies from practice to practice. In Ashtanga Yoga, there are 9 focal points. In Kundalini yoga, eyes are most often shut, but when specified include the eye focuses already discussed. Beginners often make the mistake of trying to force an eye focus. Correct drishti never involves straining the eyes. If you are called upon to focus on the tip of the nose and this hurts your eyes, more practice is required for the muscles around the eyes to get into perfect posture as it were. So simply relax the gaze slightly and meet yourself where you are at that time. Increase the strength of your gaze as your practice deepens, just as you would increase the strength of your pranayama, the length of holding a pose, or deepen into a pose.
What are the meanings of specific eye focuses?
Brow Point — This gaze stimulates the pituitary gland, strengthening intuition. It also affects the sushmuna, which is the central column along the spine through which prana flows. When you consciously move prana through your chakras along the sushmuna, you are building up your aura, also called the 8th chakra.
Tip of the Nose — This is Agiaa Chakra Bandh, and in addition to being a drishti, it is a lock within the body. Locks are kind of like complex dam systems that direct the flow of energy throughout the body in very specific ways. It stimulates the pineal gland and the frontal lobe of the brain, creating new pathways in the brain. It can be very challenging for beginners, as there is pressure placed on the optic nerve.
Chin — This is the moon center gaze, and like the energy of the moon, it brings cooling and calming energy. It also is very reflective, allowing introspection.
Crown chakra — Focusing the gaze on the crown chakra, or tenth gate, stimulates it to open. It also affects the pineal gland.
1/10th open — Here your eyes are relaxed and unfocused. This gaze is balancing and calming. A favorite of the Buddha, it allows your system to remain open to the effects of the particular meditation you are performing.