August 2005 – Tristana


Tristana means three places of attention or action.  The union of these three places of attention is the practice of ashtanga yoga.  The three places of attention are:

  1.  Breath and Movement Synchronicity (vinyasa and asana)
  2.  Bandhas
  3.  Drishti

These three are very important to our practice of yoga and cover three levels of purification; the body, the nervous system, and the mind.  The body is purified with the bandhas and vinyasa (by the building of heat), the nervous system is purified with the breath, the mind is purified with the practice of drishti.  The purpose of tristana is purification.
During your practice you want to develop the habit of being more mindful of tristana than worrying about “getting” a posture.  This is all in the work of yoga and tristana will help you put more yoga into your yoga 😉

Breath and Movement Synchronicity – Vinyasa
The literal translation of vinyasa breaks down to; Nyasa which means “to place”, and the prefix Vi translates as “in a special way”. Thus vinyasa means to place in a special way. We now have a mental and physical way to approach our practice—with Awareness.  Vinyasa does not just refer to the linking of postures–vinyasa is how we move in and out of our postures!  Vinyasa does not just refer to the postures chaturanga, up dog, and down dog–vinyasa starts with the first sun salute and ends when we lie down for rest pose . . . When we synchronize breath and movement our yoga practice becomes fluid, graceful, and meditative.

Bandha actually means to bond together–the pose setu bandhasana means the building of a bridge.  So our bandhas are about connection–inner connection.  There is an energetic connection in our lower abdomen, we are trying to use our bandhas to create inner lift–to bond together those energy pathways so the energy does not get blocked and can flow freely upward.
Many explain the bandhas as a kegel exercise or a lifting of the pelvic floor (mula bandha) and an inward upward lift of the abdomen (uddiyana bandha)–and these are ok descriptions to help you connect with the muscular control you have of your pelvic floor and abdomen but the bandhas are a bit deeper–in the core of your body.  When I connect with the inner lift of my bandhas I feel the connection an inch or two below my navel and deep into center of my body.
Connecting with you bandhas is more mental effort than physical effort and will take years to develop–but you should begin the process early in your practice!
Bandhas give us inner strength as they help keep us grounded within ourselves and give us a lightness and ease of movement.

Drishti is not about external vision–but looking inward.  Each pose has a gaze point, although you are not to look directly at the gaze point but turn your gaze in the direction of the gaze point.  Your gaze should be soft, hazy, and out of focus–it is not a hard gaze–like you are gazing into another realm of mysticism.  The purpose of the gaze point is to train the mind–trying to use the eyes to keep the mind focused.  The drishti is also good for the optic nerve (by improving blood flow to the optic nerve) and the eye muscles.  Drishti also helps us keep our head and neck properly aligned in a pose.

Tristana is achieved through repetition, it is the repetition that brings about the familiarity necessary to follow the breath from posture to vinyasa and posture again.  The repetition is the “magic”.  The repetition of the practice is what allows us to go beyond the physical plane.  As we learn the Ashtanga system our muscles remember the moves (muscle memory), we do not have to think about what to “do”.  This allows to focus on Tristana, vinyasa+drishti+bandhas.
When you feel “bored” with the repetition of the Ashtanga practice it is time to go deeper, to “get into” bandhas, drishti, breathing and moving.  This will make the practice new again and open up many areas for growth.

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