Setting an Intention

If you've ever been to a group yoga class, you may have heard the teacher ask you to set an intention for practice. I practiced yoga for over a year before I really knew what I was supposed to do.

I always just set a goal to make it through the whole yoga class without having to take a child's pose - I was still getting used to hot yoga! I now know that just pushing through class is not a great intention at all because yoga is all about listening to your body. It's a dialogue back and forth between your body and your mind. If you don't listen to your body when you need a rest, you're only widening the gap between the two. 

An intention is not a goal.

As much as my "intention" to keep moving throughout class wasn't the best one to set - it also wasn't necessarily an intention. It was more of a goal. The intention that you set shouldn't be anything that you can declare as a win or loss. Again, with yoga being more of a deeper connection with the Self, you never want to walk away discouraged. That's not really the point of yoga. There is no win or lose. There is only showing up with who you are and what you have at that moment.

So, to me, the intention that you set is what is most important to you in that moment in class. It could be something you're working on personally. It could be something or someone that you dedicate your practice to. It could be something that makes you feel empowered.

An intention serves as an anchor for you during your practice.

You can think of an intention as similar to a mantra. It's an anchor for you during your practice to come back to, just as a mantra is an anchor for you in your daily life. You can even use one of your current mantras if you like. 

Your intention could be a wish, a phrase, a word or a dedication. It could be tangible or intangible. 

When you pair your yoga practice with things that are important to you, it makes yoga more than just exercise. Intentions allow you to bring your practice into your daily life.

Aren't I also supposed to be focusing on breathing during yoga?

Yes! Focusing on breath is even more important than the poses. You could even use "connecting with breath" as your intention to create more synergy. The most important thing is keeping your brain/ego quiet during practice. Any thoughts of what you did before class or worries of what you need to do after class shouldn't linger in your mind. Nothing but the present moment matters. If you find yourself unable to stop "thinking" you can use your intention to come back.

It's not always easy! Remembering your intention throughout practice takes awareness are repetition.

Any time you have your hands at heart center, train yourself to remember your intention. If you're in downward dog for a few breaths, try to come back to your intention. If you're in a balancing pose, find your intention. It's all an anchor meant to just keep yourself focused.

Some questions to ask yourself to come up with an intention...

  • How do I feel right now?

  • What matters most to me right now in life?

  • Do I have anything I need to let go of?

  • What am I afraid of?

  • What makes me feel fulfilled?

  • What am I grateful for?

  • Why do I keep coming back to my yoga mat?

  • What do I appreciate right now?

Examples of intentions that I've used in the past.

  • I am patient

  • Kindness

  • I love myself

  • A focus on breath

  • Strength

  • Learning to let go

  • A focus on making things easy rather than hard

  • I am enough

What are your intentions for class? Feel free to post any favorites, questions or comments below.