Visualization is a process of using the imagination to create and attract what you want in your life. Yoga Nidra (yogic sleep) is a beautiful guided meditation technique that relaxes body and mind. Here, I write about my experience with yoga nidra and creative visualization – both practices that I have found empowering and emotionally releasing.
My experience with Yoga
For a long time, yoga to me was a sort of escape – from my mundane life, it took me to a place of sublime existence, where I was real and nothing else existed. It offered me a way out of my own restless mind that rejects stillness. My personal practices comprises asanas (physical postures), pranayama (breathing techniques that help to enhance the prana/ life force) and concentration techniques. The goal of yoga is ultimately to take us towards a one-pointed meditative state. The one preparatory practice for meditation that I love the most is Yoga Nidra: a practice that allows me to withdraw my senses inward. During Yoga Nidra the senses of sight, sound, smell, taste and touch are drawn inwards and the focus draws towards the universe within. This prepares the mind for meditation.
True yoga, I have discovered after many years of sādhanā (practice), is walking the line between worldly reality and escaped reality. It is the bridge between the chaos of the material world and the ordered chaos of the inner world. This may seem to be an over-simplification (or extremely complex, depending on your point of view), but it is my own interpretation of the worlds in which we live. Yoga Nidra offers a way to see both the inner and outer worlds and watch them as a witness.
Yoga Nidra or yogic sleep is a deeply relaxing meditative practice that moves the attention of the mind around the physical body, focuses on the breath and uses powerful symbols as cues for the mind to focus on. For instance, the scenery of a lush, fertile land can stimulate the mind to believe in the fertile womb for a woman trying to conceive. Different symbols trigger different experiences –the sun stimulates energy and the moon stimulates calmness and creativity. The images of natural surroundings like forests, rivers and mountains can help to release fear, anxiety, worry and stress. If we have deeply positive experiences with water, images of flowing water and oceans can be used for healing and therapy.
This relaxing practice teaches the muscles to relax as also the adrenal glands. Tension leaves the muscles and when the physical body is able to be loose and relaxed, the mind starts to relax. During Yoga Nidra we move from the conscious state of mind into the sub-conscious – the space between waking and sleep. Finally, we move into the realm of the unconscious, a space where potential lies dormant, giving us a glimpse into a world of possibilities.
The stages of Yoga Nidra:
- Withdrawal of senses (Pratyahārā)
- Rotation of awareness
- Sankalpa (repeat)
- Externalization of senses
Creating an Intent
The most important part of Yoga Nidra is sankalpa, translated as resolve, resolution or intent. This is the intention that we appoint for ourselves. Here, we use the mind to create a visual image of the very goal that we would like to achieve.
“Once the seed of Sankalpa is planted deep in the subconscious, it gathers the vast forces of the mind in order to bring it to fruition.” –Swami Satyananda Saraswati, Yoga Nidra
With the consistent practice of Yoga Nidra, a few things became clearer to me. I did not have to escape into a bubble every time life became too strenuous. I could take charge to change the way I perceived things.
Creative Visualization enhances Yoga Nidra practice
I fell in love with Yoga – its exercise on the body, mind and spirit: I wanted to teach it, be it, and have all of it, yet I had little or no idea how really to “live” it. I had attended classes, I had in-depth discussions, was reading books and articles, more than I had ever done before, but some things did not fall into place. The moment that I read the book Creative Visualization by Shakti Gawain, so many things clicked. It was like a whole series of “eureka” moments, the jigsaw puzzle started to fall into place.
The principles of creative visualization are the same as many ancient teachings. The four basic principles are:
- The physical universe as energy
- Energy is magnetic
- Form follows idea
- Law of radiation and attraction
We use visualization constantly every day, and especially in yoga classes. We visualize ourselves as calm, as warriors, frogs, cranes, peacocks, and we do all of this without even realizing that we are doing it.
I found that creative visualization was easy to incorporate into my yogic practice. I have used it to create scenes of my future life with a partner. It has helped me understand what my priorities are and make room for these in my schedule. This practice has helped me bring back the spirituality into my worldly life as well. I have been able to forgive past experiences – with friends, lovers and teachers. I have been able to move on without being affected too deeply. Some experiences will, of course, create a huge impact on our lives. For instance, the death of someone close to us will have a great effect on us, but when we are ready to heal, we can heal with better perspective and with greater wisdom.
How to use creative visualization in yoga
Setting an intent for oneself is a very important aspect of yogic practice. This gives us the direction – where we want to go, who we want to be, how we want to live. This can start any time. All it requires is a few minutes to recognise the intent and use words and images to see it coming true. Setting the intent not just for the one hour on your mat, but all of your life will bring you much more satisfaction and wholesome improvement.
Yoga is more than a series of poses that we repeat over and over. Yoga is a way to evolve. It is a way to become and a way to be. Yoga Nidra and creative visualization are techniques that have the same purpose. They help to achieve the same goal.
- The ‘Sankalpa’ or ‘intent’ is a sentence we can repeat in any language. It is a positive statement loaded with good intent and meaning.
- It is short and concise.
- It contains words that direct the mind in a positive way. Words like ‘not’, ‘no’, ‘do not’ are negative words that the mind might fixate on. This could take away from the positive implications of the intent.
- It is made in the present tense so that we are ready to start the transformative process immediately. This way the mind knows that we are already living the goal.
By repeating this Sankalpa as soon as we wake up, when we are in that state between dream and wakefulness and right before we fall asleep, we are stirring the sub-conscious into moving towards this positive goal. This gives the mind the direction that it needs. Along the way, when we find that the intent needs re-wording, we can tweak it to allow for changes in our circumstances. It is important to remember to let go of control over the fruits of the intention. It is important to believe that the universe will bring us the best always. By understanding the principles of creative visualization, we set the intention and allow it to unfold with the power of the universe.
“I am happy”/ “I am healthy”/ “I am radiant and healthy”
“I am stable and grounded”/ “I am the best that I can be in all aspects of my life”
It takes time to understand what it is that we would like to commit to, but the journey is totally worth it.
Creative Visualization by Shakti Gawain
Yoga Nidra by Swami Satyananda Saraswati