Past life regression is a journey a person takes to his or her past life while he or she is hypnotised. It is a journey usually undertaken when one is in search of a spiritual experience or when one wishes to cure an illness - physical or emotional. Practitioners say that memory a powerful touchstone of understanding but sceptics are inclined to dismiss these vivid flashbacks as "false" and imply that they are cleverly prompted. In a predominantly Hindu country like India, the concept of a past life and karma is as ancient and accepted as time itself, and finds mention in the Upanishads and Patanjali's Yogasutra. It needs no televangilisation. But while the belief in the good-and-evil karmic cycle is implicit, the received wisdom also is that one cannot re-enter a life that is over, or have any access to a memorial inheritance that belonged to a different life-body in a different time frame. 

This is where PLR requires its patients to take a leap of faith by using hypnosis as a time capsule to travel through the pages of one's personal history. Faith is open sesame in time travel. A dogmatic mind is an impediment, as is a befuddled one. One therapist remembers a client from Abu Dhabi who had OCD or obsessive-compulsive disorder. She was unable to help him mainly because his faith in Islam - which does not sanction belief in past lives - came in the way. "It is a bit like the searching for filenames options in a computer" . "Once the client is guided into a state of trance, his mind is pointed towards the source of his problem. In case his condition is past life related, he automatically gets led to that past life which has a significant connection with his problem." 

The modern sage of past-life therapy, Dr Brian Weiss, was a robust sceptic himself until a patient stunned him with details of his family life, which she could not have possibly known. This intermingling of her life and his is the basis for the analogy that he uses most often to explain the mystery of multiple lives and crossover memory: "We are like ice cubes, which are made from water. The water melts and now there's no individuality anymore... We melt into a spiritual sea. Love is the organising spirit of it all. God is in all of us. We are all souls and we are all connected." That is why, says Weiss in his best-selling book Many Lives, Many Masters, in a journey into past lives one changes race, religion, colour and gender. As the great Swiss psychotherapist Carl Jung explained, we are all inheritors of a collective mythology.

Reservations about the therapy remain. How is it, ask doctors, that all those who claim to have regressed come back with stories where they are either royals and generals or victims who have been brutalised? And how is it that past lives are always so much more exciting and eventful than our boring present-day slogs? But those who have found health and healing by entering this trance-like state can't stop being grateful for an imperfect past that has made their future less tense.

There are three ways of conducting PLR: hypnosis, the bridge technique (verbal or visual bridges are used) and the re-birthing or breathing technique. Hypnosis is the one used most widely During hypnosis, the person is made to relax in a progressively graded way leading to a trance-like state when the mind is comatose. This is the stage at which reliving occurs. It could take up to three hours Regression is a cycle. It starts with reliving or identifying past memories, transmission or going between lives (described by most as being most blissful), the release or catharsis, and finally, the integration of the experience A proper integration of the wisdom and understanding gained during the session with one's current life is key to closure Self-regression is not advised. One can misinterpret the insights gained and this can cause anxiety.