Share Pin Email
feature image
Live Free

The Meditative Magic of Tristhāna in Ashtanga Yoga

The secret to heightened clarity and peacefulness lies in how well you implement tristhāna. Done correctly and consistently, it can help you achieve a more meditative state in your daily life and practice.

Author Image
Yoga Advisor

When asked about the Ashtanga method that he taught, teacher K. Pattabhi Jois would often say, ‘This is not my yoga, this is the Ashtanga Yoga of Patanjali.’ Patanjali was a great Indian philosopher best known for The Yoga Sutras, the most respected text on classical yoga written several millenniums ago. Within this work is outlined the method of Ashtanga Yoga, which in English means the “eight limbs of yoga.” The last three of these limbs are successively deeper states of concentration, including the state of meditation. It is important to develop these limbs in your daily practice and by focusing on tristhāna you can achieve a deeper level of concentration and awareness on the mat, which carries through to your daily life.

Tristhāna is a Sanskrit term that means “three dwelling places.” The term describes the three areas you should maintain attention during your yoga practice. Those three places of attention include 1) the yoga posture, 2) the breathing system, and 3) the looking or gazing place. Each element of tristhāna has a technique that you should follow, however, there is a more subtle aspect or quality of each technique that we can explore. It is these subtle aspects that bring you to a deeper experience of concentration within your practice. The following descriptions explore the three techniques of tristhāna and the qualities that you should bring to them. Like in all yoga practices, each element of tristhāna should be learned and practiced under the guidance of a qualified teacher.

The Yoga Posture

During your practice, you should focus on the correct technique for each posture, paying attention to its form as well as how you safely enter and exit the posture. At a more subtle level, The Yoga Sutras state that you should find the dual qualities of steadiness and comfort in any given posture. They elaborate that you should cultivate the appropriate amount of ‘looseness’ and effort so that there is no unnecessary tension in the posture.

Mastering of the posture can come about by meditating on the form of ananta, which means endlessness, giving a more subtle aspect to those qualities. Ananta is also a reference to a great snake—a famed Indian mythical creature—that lies coiled in the cosmic ocean supporting the enormous weight of the universe. Even while supporting this heavy burden, Ananta preserves the qualities of comfort, peacefulness and serenity, which requires great strength and stability.

Related: Why Practice Yoga? The Many Ways It Changes Us

The Breathing System

The breathing technique used in Ashtanga Yoga calls for deep and even thoraco-diaphramagtic inhales and exhales of the same duration. The breath should be long and smooth throughout the entire practice. There are many benefits to this method, including the efficient uptake of oxygen and removal of carbon dioxide and other waste products in the lungs. Correct breathing techniques will also improve your postural alignment and support stability and relaxation within the posture.

When you breath properly, the calming effect on the nervous system is profound. This, in turn, immediately influences the mind, allowing you to maintain your attention more easily and with far greater awareness. Practicing this method of breathing strengthens and purifies the lungs along with all aspects of the breathing system. As you practice, and gradually bring the breathe under your control, you are also able to more easily bring the mind under control.

The Looking Place

Also called dṛṣṭi, this third place of attention relates to how you use your eyes. In Ashtanga Yoga, every posture and movement has a prescribed ‘dwelling place’ where you should fix your gaze. There are nine different gazing places and each posture and movement in Ashtanga Yoga uses one of these:

1) ūrdhva – up into space
2) brūmadhya – between the eyebrows
3) nāsāgra – the tip of the nose
4) pārśva – right side
5) parśva – left side
6) nābhi – the navel
7) hastāgra – tip of the hand
8) aṅguṣṭhāgra – thumbs
9) pādāgra – tip of the big toe

The technique of gazing requires keeping your eyes completely still so that they do not wander from their place of attention. The quality of the action should be one of softness as well as stillness and both qualities will be reflected in your mind. When you concentrate on this one sense, sight, you simultaneously reduce the reactivity of your four other senses. Distractions, like sounds and smells, are dulled. The technique of gazing is very powerful and this final place of attention is key to finding a meditative aspect to practice.



Comments (0)

Load More

Find us on Instagram

  • Looking for a quick at-home workout? Try "The Tens" from Stacey Pierce-Talsma, DO, RYT: Start with 10 burpees, 10 pushups, 10 sit-ups, 10 lunges, and 10 squats. Then you do nine of everything, then eight, then seven, all the way down to one. "I like to time myself and see if I can get it done in record time. I enjoy this workout because it usually takes about 10 to 15 minutes, yet I’ve totally gotten a good workout in and strengthened most major muscle groups of my body," she says.

#homeworkouts #WorkoutFromHome #fitness #exerciseroutine
  • During times of uncertainty, it can be a struggle to find time for self-care. But a few minutes of quiet can do so much for your well-being. In our guided meditation, Deepak Chopra, M.D., invites you to take a few moments of mindful attention so you can center yourself and make space in your mind to avoid feeling overwhelmed. Click the link in our bio. 
#meditation #selfcare #mindfulness
  • Many yogis chose to decorate their bodies with intellectual and emotional reminders of the practice. The symbology of the yogic tradition from chakras to Sanskrit letters has been paired with universal symbols of love, life, breath, and oneness to create a yoga-tattoo canon of sorts. The symbology has been overturned and reinterpreted over time, so that the scope of a “yoga tattoo” has actually become quite wide. Here we present a collection of body art, which honors the diversity of the many yoga lineages and the masterful and artful creativity of the modern yogi:

Check out the link and then tell us: Do you have any yoga tattoos?

#yoga #tattoos #bodyart #yogaart #bodyink
  • Start your day with this empowering mantra. "It sets the tone for the morning and can help me come back to my truest self and feel like I can take on anything," says @sophie.jaffe. 
What's your favorite mantra to kickstart the week? Tell us below!

#mantra #mondaymantra #quotes
  • Have you ever noticed that spas tend to smell of flowers such as lavender and ylang ylang? Studies show that these scents increase calmness, which is right for that setting. If you were to look for an essential oil that had the opposite effect—one that made you more energized and alert—choose peppermint. This distinct odor has the opposite effect of soothing essential oils, although it’s still a pleasant scent. Peppermint can even enhance your memory. #energyboost #boostenergy #essentialoils #memorybooster #naturalhealth #naturalremedies
  • If you find it hard to concentrate, try this practice from @alive.awake.empowered at least once a day: Count breathing cycles. Inhale, exhale, one. Inhale, exhale, two. Inhale, exhale, three. And so on.

You may be able to get only as far as two or three at first. But with practice, you will improve, and so will your ability to concentrate. Do what you can, and when a thought interrupts, go back to one.

#meditation #concentration #focus #mondays
Receive fresh content delivered to your inbox every week!