In yoga, there is a cooperation of breathe, bandhas and drishti that create the Tristana method. Lets first talk about what these things are. Breathe is pretty obvious – inhale & exhale. Bandhas are “energy locks” – they are connected to physical muscles and help lead to a better control of the physical body. There are 3 bandhas:
- Mula bandha – the root bandha of the pelvic floor
- Uddiyana bandha – just above the navel and assists in floating.
- Jalandar bandha – right between the clavicle which helps with breath retention.
And the last is drishti. This is a point for you to focus your gaze on while in a pose. Its intention is to keep you focused on your practice without the distraction of the outside world. Points include your toes, hands, nose, navel and third eye.
The tristana method brings the three of these together. Our physical body is organized around energy, both chemical and electrical (think hormones and nerves as an example). This energy can be controlled by you for your benefit. You can control this energy through breath and bandhas, as well as many other ways. This attempt to control our energy is actually an attempt to control our nervous system. We begin with the control of the physical positioning of the asana, and the alignment through breath refining the body. The bandhas lock us into the asana and the drishti allows us to relax into the posture.
Ashtanga yoga is presented in a series, the first three are positioned to support this learning to control the nervous system. The primary series (Yoga Chikitsa) promotes muscular health, the second series (Nadi Shodhana) seeks to clear & cleanse the nervous system, and the third series (Sthira Bhaga) is intended to steady your devotion and grace within the postures.
So how does the tdristana method get applied to my practice? Well the breath is getting there. The bandhas….oh the bandhas! I have found mula bandha, engaging it consistently is coming along. I have found Jalandhar bandha – but Uddiyana bandha seems to be as elusive as Sasquatch or the Loch Ness monster for me! It took me a long while to understand and connect with Mula bandha so I am not expecting Uddiyana to just come into my conciousness but connecting with it has been challenge – which explains my clumsy attempts to float. Dristi is equally challenging – but I have been getting better. I notice for me that if I am not connected to my breath, my drishti is automatically impacted. I am not focused on my practice but rather everyone else around me. My bandhas (or should I say bandha) connection is certainly less so and I fall much more.
Off the mat, I don’t know that I have placed intentional focus on applying the tdristana method but in hindsight I can see how certain situations have been positively affected by breathing, keeping focused on myself and controlling my emotions to appropriately respond rather than react. Using this in my work life and personal life allows me to have more control over myself, but at the same time be far more relaxed within my life. Think about it, if you focus on everyone else around you and their life – that can present envy, feelings of insecurity etc.