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Iyengar yoga classes have a stronger element of yoga meditation than ashtanga or power yoga classes. As a method of yoga meditation, many instructors encourage students to practice ujjayi pranayama, or “victorious breath,” a style of breathing deeply and evenly through the upper nasal passages. Your mouth should remain closed, but you should be able to hear your breath. If you are doing it right, you'll sound like Darth Vader. Focusing on the breath helps you build confidence that you can hold the poses and move deeper into them.
In addition, iyengar instructors promote yoga meditation by telling students where to focus their gaze, or drishti, in certain postures. For example, in downward-facing dog, a teacher may say that the drishti is between the feet, so you are gazing back under your body, with your head dropped. Knowing the drishti can help with your focus, especially in an iyengar class, in which poses tend to be held for longer periods than in an ashtanga class. In tree pose, for example, a drishti is a point on the wall that is not moving. Gazing at a fixed point can help you keep your balance. Drishti is less about looking at something and more about looking through it. If you're doing drishti correctly, you'll have a slightly vacant-looking stare.
|Jennifer Mathes, Ph.D.|