If there's one drishti, or gazing point, in the Ashtanga series that evokes a strong reaction from me, it's gotta be Parsva Drishti. Also known as "side" drishti, or sideways gazing point.
I mean... SIDEWAYS?! OK, so you're either looking to the right side or to the left side. But even then this is ambiguous. All the other drishti gazing points are so SPECIFIC, like the nose drishti (Nasagrai), hand drishti (Hastagrai), foot drishti (Padayoragrai), etc. Even the fluffiest-sounding one, the third-eye drishti (Ajna chakra or Broomadhya), which isn't even based on a physical body part, more like an energetic point, is so much easier to define than the ambiguous Parsva Drishti.
I mean... OK, if you're talking about Utthita Hasta Padangusthasana where you swing your leg out to either side in Utthita Parshvasahita... I'm thinking: "so I'm looking to the right, but right WHERE?! Up? Down? Eye level?"
I usually tend to just gaze a little bit higher than eyeline - somehow it just helps me from an energetic point, to keep the leg lifted, to keep the whole asana lifted together and upwards. So for me at least, this "Parsva Drishti" has always been a little bit more "sideways and UP"!
But then in Mysore, I remember in led classes noticing how most people's heads were dipped down. As in: They were looking to the side, but their focus was down on the floor!! (What great Parsva Drishti I have, that I can also spot other people's eyelines. HAHA!) I suppose in a crowded led class, there's no way you're gonna look sideways and at eye level, coz this means you'll be staring at your neighbour and if they wobble, you're gonna wobble and crash too.
So then I tried this out the next time: I looked down to the floor. SIDEWAYS, but gazing down at the floor. Wow, this really F'd up my balance. Maybe it just felt different and I wasn't used to it. But NO WAY. Never again. It felt like energetically I wasn't doing anything to keep myself in the pose either.
The other Parsva Drishti that makes me laugh is in Supta Padangusthasana. Usually by this time in the Primary series, I'm happy to be laying on my back and sometimes cheat a bit by not working so hard here. Heh. Also, with the sideways drishti here, sometimes my gaze wanders around the room to check out what other people are doing at this point. So I guess this particular Parsva Drishti is a "sideways and all over the room" drishti for me. Haha.
(I dunno why Arjuna is looking away in every Parsva Drishti picture. Maybe he's in on the conspiracy that you can't tell where the eyeline is supposed to be in Sideways Drishti.)
And then what really got my back up in yesterday's practice was Parsva Drishta in Pasasana. I was doing an evening practice at the MWF shala (no morning practices on Tuesdays and Thursdays, so it's evening practice there instead), and in fact I've been enjoying evening practices again so much that I'm thinking of switching over to evenings all the time now. It's only when work gets busy that it's hard to do so.
But anyways, so I digress.
Yesterday's practice was very laboured and water-retentive (that time of the month is creeping up!), and maybe it was also the big lunch I'd had, but getting the bind in Pasasana was a bit of a struggle. I got there eventually on my own, but I couldn't crane my head around fully in Parsva Drishti. I ended up looking kind of sideways to the left wall (and right wall) on either side, but usually in Pasasana I'm able to crane my head around so I'm looking more towards the back. So I suppose my usual Parsva Drishti in this is "sideways and to the back", whereas yesterday's Parsva Drishti was "sideways and... er... to the side".
Look, for Arjuna, it looks like it's "sideways and UP!"
See what I mean by how Parsva Drishti is just a bit of a pain the ass?!
HOW DO YOU DEFINE IT?
How "sideways" is "sideways" enough?