Yoga is typically thought of as an exploration of postures and movements, known respectively as asana and vinyasa. In addition, some may think of pranayama (breathing techniques) when they think of yoga. For others it may be contemplation or meditational practices – or chanting (mantra). For some, it is all of these things and more. I write about the range of practices that incorporates yoga elsewhere so I wont focus on these in this article.
For many, visualisations, reflections, imagination and even dreams can be useful additions to your practice.
Infact, in many traditions there is a rich vein of practices that use visualisations. In future articles I may well explore some of these, many of which I explore through my buddhist and yoga practice. Dream yoga, which is part of the Dzogchen tradition that I practice, too is a subject that is worthy of exploration, but not for now.
Today, however, I am simply intrigued as to how we can use visualisations or imagination in our physical yoga practice. Perhaps the very names of yoga postures and movements can be a hint ? When adopting the post of “warrior” we visualise ourselves as a warrior, and we summon warrior energy (whatever that may mean to you). It may be simply about having the sensation of being strong, confident and full of poise. Triangle (Trikonasana) is a wonderful standing pose to accompany with a visualisation – it’s an opening pose, based on stability and openness – that’s a great starting point. It may well be that while in the pose we absorb ourselves in these sensations and explore them mentally as much as physically. In thinking of other asana and vinyasa we can recall a long list of animals or aspect of nature – the moon, the sun, mountain, and so forth. Postures such as bridge or boat can evoke strong metaphors which we can deepen through imagination or thought. The wonderful vinyasa called sun salutation (surya namaskar) can – and for many does – evoke our joy of the rising and ever present sun.
One beautiful visualisation that we can explore is in the exploration of yoga nidra. This is typically a guided meditation to help you sink into a beautiful restful and rejuvenating state. Some of the best visualisations through guided meditation come from the Bihar School of Yoga. If you follow this blog, I will be posting a wonderful yoga nidra from this tradition, this week, which harnesses the power of visualisation for our deeper self.
Our tentative exploration of visualisation or imagination in yoga practice can enrich and deepen our practice, and ultimately extend to our whole lives. This can be empowering. So why not give it a go?