At the beginning of a yoga class, most of the time, you are asked to set an intention for your practice. Your intention is not shared with the whole class, so whatever you choose can be a very personal desire.
What is an Intention?
When I was a beginner to yoga, I thought an intention was a goal, like “I want to get better at yoga” and “I want to get my heels all the way to the mat in downward dog”.
Now though, I’ve learned that an intention is a desire for a quality or virtue that you want to have more of in your life to bring balance and centeredness. Your intention is a word or phrase that you keep reminding yourself of during the practice.
You may have heard the quote “where attention goes, then energy flows”.
Unfortunately, we all have samskaras – mental and emotional patterns (negative or positive) that are like well-worn grooves in our behavior and where our energy easily flows.
“Stranger Danger” is great for a 4 year old to learn and practice, but no so great if you still have that mentality when you get to 40.
Your mind also has a tendency to think negative thoughts and worries – and these are sometimes compared to “weeds” in a garden. In a garden, weeds tend to grow really fast and steal nutrients and sunshine from the plants you are trying to grow.
This is where an intention comes in. Your intention is compared to a seed for a beautiful flower.
Let’s look deeper into an example intention of GRATITUDE. According to a study done in 2008 by Alex Wood, gratitude has been shown to help “lower levels of stress and depression”. Spending your yoga practice bringing positive attention to thoughts of gratitude in your life will help your energy grow that seed into a flower.
Over time, if you keep watering and sending light to these “flower seeds”, then they will overtake the weeds.
Ideas for intentions:
PEACE – in your mind or in your heart, accepting the present moment as it is
LOVE – opening to receive or giving more out
NON-JUDGEMENT – towards yourself and others
SELF-CARE – giving yourself permission to take a break when you need one, taking more time during the day for activities that benefit your mind and body
BALANCE – bring the work/life balance back to center
LETTING GO – releasing old thoughts and ideas that no longer serve you, clearing out clutter in your life
MAKING NEW FRIENDS – extending your community and meeting new people and being exposed to new ways of thinking
And so on…..
Please note that these are only suggestions – an intention is a personal desire, and no one intention is better than another or wrong. Only you can choose what is right for you at the time of your practice.
I Just Can’t Make it to the Studio Today!
What happens if you don’t have plans to go to a yoga class? Can you still make an intention?
Absolutely! You can set an intention at any time – right when you wake up is a perfect time to think about an intention for the day, and then try to bring your awareness back to that intention during the day – just checking in and noticing if your interactions with others and your projects are reflecting that quality.
Also, intentions can change day to day. Each day you can think of something new you wish to work on.
An intention is probably something you will need to think about more in depth. I invite you to sit quietly and begin to think of possible intentions for your practice. If you like to journal, write your thoughts about intentions that you would like to incorporate into your practice.
I would love to hear if you use intentions! If you feel comfortable, please share a couple in the comments below so other people can learn from you as well!