Imagining Change: The Power of Visualization

Posted on June 10th, 2013 by in Yoga

Change is a fact of life. Even if we take no steps to improve our lives, we’ll still grow older. Time will march forward. The question is whether we’ll move in a direction that leads somewhere we want to go or somewhere we don’t.

So often, we think that if we want to experience this or have that, we have to do something. We believe a tangible action is required to create a noticeable shift in how we’re living or how we’re feeling.

I don’t think Rachel Schaeffer, my latest Kripalu Perspectives guest, would suggest we sit motionless and expect our worlds to transform before our eyes, but she does believe creating change doesn’t have to be as arduous as we might imagine.

In her book Yoga for Your Spiritual Muscles, Rachel suggests that the physical practice of yoga is one way to develop qualities such as compassion, confidence, energy, and balance. But there’s another practice she believes is just as important in creating change—and it requires nothing more than closing our eyes and letting our imaginations run wild.

“Visualization has literally healed me,” she says. “When I had adrenal exhaustion, I used guided imagery. I was unable to take part in almost any kind of physical practice, but visualizing gave me renewed energy and hope.”

Rachel says that for short periods of time, the bodymind relates to real events and imagined ones in a similar way. So to some degree, when we imagine ourselves healthier and happier, wealthier and wiser, we really are.

To visualize what you’re looking to manifest, Rachel suggests the following steps:

  • Do what works for you. “For some people, being led through visualization by a live teacher or a tape is extremely helpful,” she says. “Some people like to lie down; others like sitting in a chair. For others, it’s helpful to engage the whole body.” For example, to develop confidence, Rachel suggests imagining yourself as a fierce being while in Warrior pose.
  • Practice daily. “It doesn’t have to be a long practice, but it should be consistent and truly felt,” she says. “Breathe into the images you desire for yourself, as if they’re already happening and you’re drinking them in from a deep well.”
  • Don’t worry if you don’t believe the visualization—just have fun. “The key is to let go of your adult, logical mind, and give yourself permission to enjoy the childlike quality of awe and wonder,” Rachel explains. “Let your mind be open to all kinds of wild, colorful, fantastic, hilarious, unlikely ideas.”

I told Rachel that I was looking to develop more flexibility around a personal issue that has me feeling stuck, and she led me through a visualization that took me on a journey into the ocean. I encountered sea creatures, a sandy beach, natives in canoes, and a magical being. All had messages for me that I was to put in a special treasure box.

When I opened my eyes, I shared what had happened with Rachel. I’d received some deep messages, but I wasn’t trusting them. My logical mind had kicked in right away. Was I making it all up?

Rachel reassured me that, ultimately, it doesn’t matter if the feeling or the message was fleeting or fanciful.  If it felt helpful and offered a glimmer of hope in an otherwise cloudy or dark situation, then it’s showing me how it feels to move into a new place.  And maybe that’s exactly how real change begins.

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About Portland Helmich

Portland is the creator, host, and producer of the Kripalu Perspectives podcast series. She's also is the creator, host, and executive producer of What’s the Alternative?, a series of 52 half-hour talk shows about natural and alternative forms of healing the body-mind on Veria Living TV, a natural health channel on DISH, FiOS, and Frontier. For 15 years, Portland’s been investigating natural health and healing as a host, reporter, writer, and producer. She's been an alternative medicine correspondent for Oxygen, a health reporter for The American Consumer on PBS, and was the creator, host, and executive producer of Journeys Into Healing on Wisdom Television. She produced for HealthWeek and Healing Quest on PBS and was a medical producer for WCVB-TV (Boston’s ABC News affiliate). She’s also covered the subject as a freelance writer for Body + Soul, Alternative Medicine, and Spa magazines. Portland currently lives in Boston and produces other natural health programming for Veria Living TV.