It is actually quite an interesting take on one’s yoga practice. The first time, I attended a class, I didn’t get it. I wondered what’s the point and as you probably guessed, I opened my eyes eventually and they stayed open. I was used to always having specific spot to focus on (dristi).
It is easy to lay down or sit on the mat with eyes shut. Once, we started moving, that’s when it got harder. A lot harder! I found myself drifting off my mat a few times too.
Once, I started learning about this “quiet wakefulness” approach to practice, the light bulbs for me turned on. I could really tune inward and deeply explore my practice. Being able to truly inwardly practice is wonderful and I became more successful with my poses.
Curious?!? What’s the point?
1. Having your eyes closed really changes your yoga experience! Poses that you have regularly practiced (with eyes opened) with little effort are suddenly much more difficult. A big reason is due to our sense of sight contributing greatly towards our equilibrium. However, with eyes closed, slight shifts and wobbliness are apparent and you might fall out of a pose. To make up for this, you might be tempted to open eyes, but if you don’t, you’ll find that the body taps into your muscles to keep you in your desired positions. Muscles work harder and you’ll definitely feel the difference.
2. You have to really tune into the instructor and listen if you aren’t peeking.
3. You’ll fine tune your ability to concentrate and focus. You’ll actually shift inward. You’ll remove obstacles of judgment and competition that often come when you see others on their yoga mats doing something you maybe can’t do. Our ego isn’t in charge.
Sight, is probably the most used sense out of our five senses (sight, hearing, touch, taste, and smell). Closing the eyes allows the other senses to take over and grow strong. Ever wonder how a blind person gets around? It is because their brains are wired differently so that their other senses are well developed. Our bodies are very adaptive and rewiring can happen at anytime. Just ask someone who had an accident change their life.
It is relaxing and refreshing. Think about what you do when you take a relaxing break. Often, you close your eyes and rest.
Have you ever seen someone close their eyes as they attempt to remember something or answer a difficult question? Closing eyes removes distractions and improves the ability to recall.
Giving it a try.
1. Try rolling your mat out and practicing in a dark room. Maybe tie a handkerchief around your eyes so you won’t be tempted to peek. Use soft, lyric free, spa like music to encourage slower movements.
2. Start practice either laying down or seated. Center yourself with your breath and tune inward. Try deep diaphragmatic breaths verses Ujjayi breath. Diaphragmatic breathing is slower paced than the Ujjayi technique.
3. When you move, start with more grounded poses before the less grounded ones. An example would be modified crescent lunge over crescent lunge. When you become comfortable, try the less grounded options. The worst that will happen is you’ll loose your balance and come out of a pose.
So give it a try. Change it up. See what you discover.