It is often assumed practicing yoga with your eyes closed leads to a deeper relaxation. That it allows us to go a little deeper into our practice and therefore into ourselves. It turns out, this common misconception, one I too have shared, is exactly that - a misconception. Let me explain.
Firstly, we all know that trying to balance with your eyes closed is not a good idea. It makes achieving the asana very difficult to do. Asanas like Vrksasana (Tree) or Garudasana (Eagle) require practitioners to concentrate on a single, unmoving point to maintain this balance. A simple, common sense reason for keeping our eyes open.
But aside from physical balance, I want to explain why keeping our eyes open during our practice is so important to truly achieve this deeper inner awareness and state of bliss we all seek. To give an example, sitting in my favourite little cafe in Mysore, India, I was having a most wonderful, enlightening conversation with a true master of meditation (and as such a true master of himself). We were chatting about the noise of India and my fascination with yoga originating from a place which is so loud and often overwhelming. His reply silenced me, and since that day I have continued to ponder his words. He said, “...you see Jessica, we need the noise in India for if you can find stillness within despite the noise and all other distractions, then you have found true peace.” Amazing. What a wonderful way of looking at the world.
The same applies with the following example. Many can find stillness and peace whilst standing on the top of a mountain, sitting in a silent Ashram or Church or enjoying a beautiful nature walk, but it’s when that same person can stand in the middle of a crowded market and experience that same feeling of peace that they have found true peace within.
So, when this is applied to yoga, if we can find true stillness with our eyes open, absorbing all the distractions but still managing to go deeper and truly listen to our bodies, only then can we achieve the ultimate bliss for which yoga can give. Commonly people think keeping their eyes closed will lead to relaxation. For some asanas, like Savasana (Corpse), absolutely. But asana practice, prior to finishing with Savasana, is not meant to be about relaxation as such. It is preparing our bodies to become relaxed as a result of the practice. Hatha Yoga, for example, is the ‘Yoga of Effort’. From this place, through this practice, we bring balance to our bodies and by bringing balance to our bodies, we can achieve ultimate bliss.
So with that, remember, during your next practice, be sure to keep your eyes open but make a conscious effort to notice what’s going on within the body. Listen to your body and respect what it’s telling you. You might be surprised what you find out.