Preety Tyagi, a social sector worker living in Delhi, had wanted to be a mother for very long. But for years after her marriage, she was unable to conceive due the presence of fibroids in her uterus. In the ninth year of trying for a baby, doctors informed her that the only available option for her was the IVF method and that natural conception seemed difficult.
Tyagi told Decode that exhausted with the procedures she then decided to 'manifest' a baby in 2016. She was, after all, not new to these rituals. She insisted that she had also 'manifested' her 'weight loss'.
The 40-year-old explained that before she started 'manifesting', she had found it difficult to work out. However, once she started telling herself aloud in English, every day — "what we want are things that we can have by desiring them" — she was able to workout, and 'manifest' weight loss. Decode asked for more details on her process, but Tyagi did not divulge more than this.
What Is Manifestation?
The Urban dictionary defines manifestation as a term used for hope or desire until it comes true using the law of attraction. The concept has there for a long time but 'manifesting' became a viral Internet trend sometime during the pandemic with TikTok videos and then the rise of coaches who help people in manifesting things, both living and non-living.
In a country, where the astrology industry is estimated to be nearly $40 billion in worth, it is not surprising that 'manifestation' — a series of practices that have been criticised as having no scientific basis — is thriving. Unlike astrology which is deeply embedded in Indian social systems, the popularity of 'manifestation' stems from viral content being shared by 'influencers', content creators and 'coaches' on a wide range of social networking platforms like Facebook, Instagram, TikTok, YouTube etc.
Drawing from various religious references, this school of content promises everything from 'healing' to promotions at work and often comes packaged in style aesthetics and buzzwords that seemingly distinguish them from old-school soothsaying and future reading.
At the time of writing this story, there were over 7.7 million posts on Instagram with the hashtag #manifestation.
On YouTube, top content on 'manifestation' in India ranged from sermons by 'Sadhguru' Jaggi Vasudev and interviews by popular content creator 'Beer Biceps' to tutorials by coaches like American lawyer, author and television personality Mel Robbins. There are videos on 'manifestation hacks' which the creators claim give 'fast results', and separate content to 'attract' everything from money, houses, children and the kind of partner people want.
Chai Bade, the CEO of Digimarketers, a digital marketing agency based in Melbourne with offices in Hyderabad and San Francisco prefers to call it 'personal development' content. Having worked with seven clients who make content in this genre for the past four years, he said that the demand for this content has spiked considerably since the beginning of the pandemic.
A growing demand for content that teaches viewers techniques to 'manifest' wealth, partner and babies has met with an equally growing number of courses being offered by manifestation coaches on Youtube alongside platforms like Udemy.
While on the surface it may seem harmless considering many such coaches insist on teaching 'positivity', thousands of this content and videos claim to simultaneously reduce structural problems like poverty, oppression, inequality, gender inequity, health issues like PCOD and infertility to individual problems and deficiencies that they say, often result from the 'misdeeds' of their past lives.
Bolstered by articles in the mainstream media, especially in popular lifestyle magazines like Vogue, these concerns, however, have not stalled the rapid increase in 'manifestation' content across all kinds of media.
Dr Sunil Mohan, MD, psychiatrist and director of Bengaluru-based mental health facility Augmenta Health said not only is there no scientific basis for the phenomenon being touted as 'manifestation', but some of the routines prescribed to 'manifest' children can also activate past trauma, cause regression, depression and psychotic breakdowns, if the person doesn't end up conceiving.
"These people don't understand when they are asking someone to prepare themselves for such a complex bio-psychological process like pregnancy and also replicate a pregnancy without being pregnant — lots of things can go wrong beyond anybody's control and abilities," Dr Mohan told Decode.
While the pandemic might have led many to seek refuge and find hope in the 'affirmation' videos made by some of these coaches, the societal pressure of giving birth had been making many women seek help from these coaches for some years now. Some call themselves 'manifestation' coaches and trainers, while some like calling themselves 'healers' and 'Garbh Sanskar coaches'.
Meet The 'Manifestation Coach'
"Becoming a manifestation coach and trainer was my 'destiny'. I wanted to save people and empower them to have what they want", said Kartika Nair, the founder of a YouTube channel named Synchroshakti. The 31-year-old psychology graduate from Christ University, Bengaluru, has been in the business since 2017.
Nair told Decode that one of the first big things she had 'manifested' was her pre-university admission to Christ University in 2008, despite not having grades that would make the cut-off. She said that she remembers walking into the administrative headquarters of the university with her father, a highly-placed public services officer and getting a "hassle-free" admission once her father informed the authorities who he was. Nair insists that the "hassle-free" admission, despite the 'odds' i.e her not having the requisite marks, was a result of her 'manifestation'.
"All throughout 2007, I behaved as if I were from Christ University. While passing by the college, I would tell people that this is my college. This is how my 'subconscious identity' was turned into that of a Christite," Nair said.
Nair locates her interest in the world of 'manifestation' in her childhood inclination toward magical stories she read as a child where fairies would grant wishes. Her exposure to 'positive thinking' books, Nair said, was also facilitated by her mother, who worked in marketing and father, who had later taken up a private sector role. In 2007, right before Nair said she 'manifested' her college admission, she watched a docu-series called The Secret, written by Australian television personality Rhonda Byrnes and directed by an Australian man called Drew Heriot. Aired in 2006 for the first time, the documentary featured interviews with people who seemed to endorse the concept of 'law of attraction', an important aspect of 'manifestation' according to its practitioners.
However, it was her content writing role with her family friends' 'Personal Development' organisation that convinced her to take up the role of a 'manifestation coach'.
With a following of over 1.83 lakh subscribers on Youtube, Nair who wanted to be a full-time musician, now runs the Synchroshakti Academy. Nair said that the academy has had close to 14,000 students sign up and take paid courses. Synchroshakti offers 15 courses along the lines of manifestation and mindfulness ranging from Rs. 99-1,00,000. The 'small team' in the organisation has been trained by the psychology graduate.
Sambhavi Raaj, a former actor based in Mumbai, attributes her formal introduction to the world of manifestation to Rhonda Byrne's book series, 'The Secret', which she claims, appeared 'magically' before her one day.
"Unknowingly I had 'manifested' both 'The Secret' and its sequel into my life," said Raaj, who lives in Kandivali, in Mumbai's suburbs. She claims to have come across this concept of 'manifestation' in the Bhagavad Gita earlier but found it inaccessible because of the language. She wanted reading materials that would be slightly easier than the Gita, yet enlightening enough to teach her about manifestation.
"The books ('The Secret') magically appeared before me in the bookstore I was standing in," said Raaj who runs a channel with over 3.04 lakh subscribers. "I would continuously think about finding accessible materials and then one day when I had gone to the Infinity mall to just loiter, I came across this book inside Crossword Bookstore and then ordered it on Amazon."
However, it was not her first 'manifestation' that encouraged her to take up this profession. Raaj said that during the many occasions of her listening and providing counsel to her friends post their breakups or during their times of stress, she realised that she was 'gifted' with the 'ability to heal'.
The actor moved from Delhi to Mumbai in 2003, and since then has had small roles in Hindi television shows like Savdhaan India, Lapataganj, and Crime Patrol, among a few. She started providing her manifestation and healing services over phone calls in 2018.
Raaj said that she offered coaching only to clients who paid her a 'handsome amount' – that way she'd know that they are 'serious'.
Now a full-time manifestation coach, the 38-year-old mentions that it has been difficult to go back to the industry post-COVID. However, she hopes to resume work as an actor soon.
Purvi Bhave, a former computer engineer, decided to become a full-time coach after she gave birth to one boy and a girl. Bhave told Decode that she had 'manifested' the 'features' of the babies she wanted and when they were born, the children looked exactly like the children's images she had 'manifested' when she was pregnant.
Bhave, however, attributes most of her training to reading the work of late ayurveda practitioner Balaji Tambe. She also prefers to call herself a 'Garbh Sanskar' coach, rather than a 'manifestation' coach.
The 31-year-old resident of Vadodara, Gujarat started her Youtube channel Sanskriti Garbhsanskar in April 2021. Compared to some of her peers', Bhave's channel has fewer followers. One of her more popular videos seems to be one where a three-month-old baby is seemingly 'chanting Om', which Bhave attributes to 'manifesting' the qualities one wants in a child.
Her channel description reads: "I help Planning or Pregnant couples to have desired child with Garbhsanskar."
Bhave told Decode that her online and offline courses are designed for pregnant women who believe in her mantra - "a woman's womb is just not an organ but a university for the baby". Here she teaches pregnant women how they can expose themselves to 'virtuous' and 'cultural' things for the all-round development of their babies – while they are inside the wombs.
Her belief in this 'ancient Indian knowledge' comes from her observation that her own kids learnt 'everything' from those nine months they were in her womb. Bhave recalls playing some religious songs when her kids were toddlers and the children telling her: "Yes, mamma, we had heard this song when we were inside your womb."
Bhave's daughter is five, while her son is two-and-half years old.
Though Bhave's 'techniques' are rooted in what she calls an 'ancient science' a review of her channel reveals, they draw heavily from Hindu religious scriptures and cultural motifs.
Thousands of miles away, in Queensland, Australia, 'healer and law of attraction' coach Juliette Kristene offers similar advice to her readers and clients, though it is not based on Hindu scriptures.
Kristene, who has been featured in New York-based Women's Health magazine, claims that it is important for women to talk to their 'future babies'.
She explained to Decode that before she conceived herself, she 'silently communicated' with her baby: "I communicated with my baby silently in my mind. Specifically, I imagined my energy opening up and expanding into the heavens. I then (silently) invited them to come through. I visualized my energy open and expanded with a red glow coming from my womb. I told them I was ready for them and then, I let it go, knowing that they would come when they were ready."
Kristene added that she wanted a 'Pisces girl', but her daughter was scheduled to be born in late March, and would be of an Aries zodiac sign. "Her due date 100% indicated she was going to be Aries and she ended up coming (unexpectedly) 10 days early and was a Pisces," she said.
However, she added that while clients often come with requests to help manifest a specific gender of a baby or twins, she often advises them to keep their minds open to the fact that sometimes a child may not be a biological one and they can become parents by other means.
Kehkasha, a facilitator under the Sexual and Reproductive Health wing of the YP Foundation, however finds the whole gamut of videos on manifesting children triggering. "I recently stumbled upon a video on manifesting a baby boy. I couldn't watch it because it was affecting my mental health and triggering my past trauma and lived experience," she told Decode.
Kehkasha comes from a family where her mother was abused verbally and physically for years to give birth to a boy. When she finally gave birth to a boy, the baby died because during the pregnancy the mother had suffered immense trauma, low nutrition level and stress leading to the birth of a weak baby with several complications.
Kristene, who is expecting a child soon, added that she has put it out there that she'd like to have a boy this time. "I also placed the intention out to the universe that I desired my second pregnancy to be a boy. One of the ways I did this was by placing a blue balloon on my vision board. I am due to give birth in 3 weeks so we will see!" she told Decode, adding they have deliberately chosen not to know the gender of the child until its birth.
While Kristene advises her clients to be 'open' about the many ways they can become parents, she said that she receives at least one request every month from some of her clients on specific issues like 'manifesting' twins or a 'baby boy'. And she's not the only one.
"Manifesting A Baby In 4 Simple Steps"
Though it has just 7.4k views, Preety Tyagi said her video "How to Manifest a Baby" attracts several clients for the 'manifestation coach'. Tyagi believes that her personal story of how she manifested her baby boy, despite having multiple fibroids is a 'success story' that legitimises her claims of being able to teach these techniques.
Tyagi told Decode that she conducts a 14-hour-program, divided into several sessions, that help people 'manifest babies'. Her course is divided into four steps: "affirmations, visualization, mindful techniques, and healing".
In the first step, Tyagi said, women, who are not pregnant, are asked to repeat to themselves daily: "I am blessed because I have conceived a baby".
They are then asked to observe the body language of a pregnant woman and behave like them. Tyagi advises her clients to copy the posture of women who have a baby bump and sit, walk and sleep like that, follow eating habits of pregnant women, and if possible also wear maternity wear etc., among other things.
Following this step, clients who go to coaches wanting to 'manifest' babies, are taught the 'baby visualization technique'. Here manifestation coaches like Raaj ask their clients to have clarity as to what features they want their future child to have.
Raaj told Decode that her clients in their early thirties want 'fancy' features like dimples, blue eyes, curly hair, and fair skin. So she then encourages these women to visit a maternity ward to see how newborn babies look and modify their 'visuals' accordingly so that they get the 'best' and most 'accurate' results.
Bhave recommends to her pregnant clients the 'baby blue print' technique. "I ask them to make a list of all the features they want under the 4Qs - Intelligent Quotient (IQ), Emotional Quotient (EQ), Physical Quotient (PQ), and Spiritual Quotient (SQ). "I also ask them to google all the physical features they want and make an A4 size printout of the baby they like the most on the Internet," she said.
Pregnant women are then expected to place this visualization board in a frequently visited corner of the house.
Dr Yuvraj Jadeja, a Vadodara-based obstetrician and gynecologist, who specialises in infertility cases and IVF, and surrogacy said that there has been a steep rise in cases of infertility and non-scientific information on issues of conception and pregnancies have a huge impact on women. Jadeja who has over 30,000 followers on Instagram and regularly talks about reproductive health said that often he gets patients who have been waylaid by unscientific rituals and beliefs, which are now packaged aesthetically on social media platforms and reaching massive numbers of audiences.
By the time the patients get to medical experts like him, it is already too late.
"I recently came across this video asking women not to wash their hair during the first trimester of their pregnancy and I will not be shocked if people share these with their daughters and daughter-in-laws. This is ridiculous. This results in true scientific solutions and knowledge being questioned," Dr Jadeja told Decode.
Often fertility clinics and doctors' chambers have photos of babies adorning the walls, but Dr Arindam Saha, a gynecologist based out of Kolkata, told Decode that it cannot possibly have any connection to the process of conception that the clinics guide patients with.
"Photographs of children are kept in the fertility clinics to help uplift the moods of women who are trying to conceive. Oftentimes these women are under great societal and familial pressure, so these are done to uplift their moods and help them remain positive throughout their fertilisation process," he said. There is no medical evidence that a process like the one suggested by these coaches can actually influence what a child looks like, he said.
Bhave, however, claims to have a 100% success rate where her clients have been able to manifest babies with the same features they 'visualised' and listed on the visualisation photo. She even mentions cases where Indian couples have been able to manifest babies with dimples and blue eyes, despite not having either.
Dr. Saha told Decode that, "Genetic mutation is the only way physical features of an offspring can be changed. However, such a thing is not done in any fertility clinic."
Raaj asks her clients who want to 'manifest' babies to send her details of their medical reports that clearly mention that both partners are 'normal', hinting that she first gets information if they are 'fertile' and are medically able to conceive. She asks them to send their detailed medical reports in case the women have PCOD and other health conditions. She insists on this as she believes that the 'healing process' is customised accordingly.
"Some clients and even renowned healers can not conceive despite knowing all the techniques because of their blockages," said Tyagi. She added that PCOD, late conception, miscarriage, or the failure to conceive fall under the list of blockages that women have because of their 'karmic journey'.
"The karmic journey is the reflection of all deeds of one's past life. Women face difficulties in conceiving babies because of the blockage in their lower chakra area (below the navel region). These blockages are the results of their misdeeds,", she told Decode.
As a 'manifestation' coach, who teaches how to manifest a baby, she doesn't guarantee results because she is unaware of the deeds of her clients' past and she believes that only her clients can heal their blockages.
The Baby Everyone Wants – A Boy!
"Ninety percent of my inbox is full of requests from people who want to manifest a baby boy!" said Raaj.
Raaj has a client base of both men and women, from different parts of India. She complains that she receives a very high number of requests from women hailing from both tiers I and II cities, requesting her to teach them techniques that will help them manifest a baby boy.
Kristene insists that there are some aspects of 'manifestation' that can be controlled, while some others can not be because the "soul might have chosen something different from what the person wants to manifest".
Nair too receives messages requesting her to teach them how to manifest a boy child. "On not entertaining them further, these clients often come back saying that they just want to learn how to manifest babies," said Nair.
Her clientele mostly being middle-class Indian women, Nair said that she has observed that most of them are in great distress due to their repetitive miscarriages, their inability to conceive a baby, and most importantly, conceive a boy child. Thus, they turn to 'manifestation'.
Raaj mentions instances, where clients have explicitly mentioned that they want to manifest a boy child and then have immediately explained themselves by saying that they are under a lot of pressure.
"Most of these women in their early thirties take up a lot of pressure on themselves. They believe that once they give birth to a male child they will receive love and respect from their husbands, in-laws, and the society, not realizing that after a few days of being treated right, they will end up being treated the same old way!", Raaj said, adding she doesn't entertain requests of a child of a specific gender.
Dr Agni Bose, a Mumabi-based Venereologist, explained that though he has never had patients talk about 'manifesting' children, he has noticed similar content getting amplified on social media quite often. "Sharing this content for a positive reason- thinking that this would help them get what they want, is disastrous because it adds to the already existing myths around it," he added.
Trigerring Old Traumas
Tyagi told Decode that 'manifestation' is important, especially when it comes to women's health issues and pregnancies, because she believed all medical conditions are rooted in 'bad deeds' of the past.
"Producing a baby, especially a male child is a reward for the good deeds of one's past life while complicated pregnancies, miscarriages and health conditions like PCOD are results of the bad deeds of their previous life," she said.
The 'manifestation' coach's approach seems to underline Kehkasha's fears that these practices are just old, dangerous myths being circulated through modern technologies.
Dr Jadeja explained that while he doesn't support censorship, there should be a verification process for anyone who is trying to make any content around health information. "The social media platforms should ask for degrees and certificates, failure to produce which, such content shouldn't be allowed. Additionally, they should also be asked to submit their registration numbers, so that the viewer also knows that the content creator is a registered medical practitioner," he said.
Like some of the coaches themselves admitted, the pressure to 'manifest' babies, especially boys, are usually rooted in shame and anxieties women are made to feel about motherhood.
Upasana Chaddha Vij, counselor, said the biggest problem of the 'manifestation' business is probably also the biggest selling point. And that is hope.
"When something that was supposed to give hope doesn't work, the disappointment is very big. It leads to deeper self esteem issues, anxiety, depression and further resistance to any treatment both physical and psychological," Vij said.