Visualization plays an important role in the Viniyoga® tradition. Visualization has an important impact on the internal layers of the self (manomaya – the layer of the intellect – and vijñānamaya– the layer of the emotions) and hence has the ability to influence others layers like the physical dimension (annamaya), the breathing (prāṇamaya), etc. Bhāvana, visualization, in Sanskrit, is coming from the root BHŪ : which means to exist. Bhāvanais hence the act of creating something, of causing the existence of something. The explanation is highly relevant as this article will show that well implemented visualization has the impact to change positively someone. In fact, it can play different roles.
1) It can be used as a therapy – cikitsa. For instance, a practitioner with a lazy liver will benefitiate greatly from visualizing the sun (sūrya). It will slowly brings the quality of warmthness (uṣṇa) inside his system and will have an impact on the work of his liver by increasing his faculties. Another person whose lungs are tights and which is prone to asthma and bronchitis will feel more open by visualizing a blossoming flower and will slowly breath easier. Observation of the care seeker has to be very well done (parīkṣa) for giving the appropriate tool. Inappropriate visualization can have side effect, a care seeker who has been throught chemotherapy will already have pitta(the doṣalinked with the fire – jaṭharāgni) highly elevated in his system due to the nature of the treatment. Giving the sun will aggravate the warmth of the person.
In this case, it may be useful to work, for instance, with the moon, to continue to give some light (jyotiṣ) but in a very refreshing (śīta) manner. Other visualizations can be very usefull too like water (āpaḥ) who will refresh the practitioner has well as will help to remove the impurities (śodhanam). Water has also the ability to influence drastically our subconscious emotional patterns (pratyaya). Hence, we will carefully choose a moving or a still water after a real examination of the practitioner.
2) The second application is called prāṇacaitanya, it consist in bringing the consciousness in one part of the body during the practise. While practicing, directing our consciousness in one part of the body, which has as an immediate effect to brings energy in the respective part. For instance, an āsanawhose main effect is focused on the lower abdomen (apāna) will be greatly enhanced with the application of prāṇacaitanyain the same region. Prāṇacaitanyacan have a huge impact in some context. Visualization in the first cakrahas the ability to transform some āsana(like jaṭhara–parivṛtti) in a very effective mudrā-s.
The power of the consciousness, through the visualization, has the power to shift completely the effect of one āsana. In jaṭhara–parivṛtti, for instance, you will normally work on the third cakra, balance the fire in the body and help the practitioner to deal with some emotions linked with his own childhood and the relationship he had with his own parents. Focusing the attention and directing the energy consciously toward the first cakrawhile inhaling will help to work also on some older emotions linked with the emotional inheritance (vāsana-s) of the family. This is a huge difference. This is the power of visualization and the power of the consciousness.
3) The third application is a spiritual one (vaidika). Patañjali explains it in the first chapter on the sūtra-s. “tajjapaḥtadarthabhāvanam” (I. 28). “Repeating [the name of God] has to be done with a visualization of the meaning”. In this case, the form of the desired god can be seen as a statue, a light, a mountain,… The mind has to focus on a meaningful form of the God and we are mentally reciting his name. This has the effect to help to practice with a consciousness and not mechanically, and then to engage fully in the meditation (dhyānamor pūjā).
The deeper mind (pratyaya) of the practitioner then only can change accordingly with the qualities of the God on which we meditate. The same idea is described by TKV Desikachar in “The Yoga of Krishnamacharya” (page 37-38). “Further, he [T. Krishnamacharya] also added long ago, the idea of Bhāvanain the practice of Prāṇāyāma. Long, long ago, he said, the breathing, inhalation, exhalation and retentions have some sort of a relationship with the highest force, Lord Nārāyaṇa. Inspiration is like an inspiration from God himself. Retention is some sort of meditation, because you are with him. Exhalation is some sort of movement towards God and retention after exhale is like surrender to God”.
Hence, visualization is a very deep subject of Yoga. Patañjali explains this process in the third chapter. “maitryādiṣu balāni” (III.23) and “baleṣu hastibalādīni”(III. 24). “Meditating on [the strength of] friendship and the others will give you the strength of the meditated quality” (III.23) and “meditating on the strength of the elephant [you will gain] the [corresponding] strength”. The quality of the object of visualization will influence your deep pattern.
One funny example on one student of Sir TKV Desikachar explains this very well. A young and fearful man came to visit him to overcome his fear of taking the plane. Sir TKV Desikachar asked him to meditate on Hanuman, the monkey Lord which is also bachelor. This boy overcame his fear, but didn’t want to marry until Sir asks him to meditate on a God and his consort! The focus was the quality of strength of the God, his ability to jump over the sea. Somehow the quality of being a bachelor has also been absorbed by the mind of this young boy. Bhāvanais indeed a very precious yogic tool. Our practice will gain a lot by implementing it appropriately into our own personal practice.
Kausthub Desikachar & Philip Rigo
Viniyoga® Teachers @ Krishnamacharya Healing and Yoga Foundation