Picture it: You’re in child’s pose at the beginning of class. You tune your attention toward your breath, building awareness and peace as you prepare to move into your yoga vinyasa sequence. You’re feeling great until...wait, a second. Your instructor asks you to set a silent intention for your practice. What the heck is an intention and how do I set one?
An intention is a quality or virtue you hope to cultivate both on and off your mat. Intentions help us live more mindful and intentional lives.
For beginner students, it often helps if you examine why you stepped on the mat. What do you hope your practice will help you achieve? Are you seeking health and wellness or hoping to build strength and flexibility? Do you want to restore balance and peace or do you desire to cultivate more love and kindness?
Intentions can be simple and straightforward, such as those related to your physical practice: strength, flexibility, or breathing. Or they can be a bit more abstract, such as persistence, patience, and love.
Don’t think you have to stick to one word intentions, people! Some of my favorites are little phrases like “I am enough” or “I will accept where I am today without judgment.”
Avoid specific goal-related intentions, such as “I will hold Crow’s pose for five seconds.” Try to allow yourself to go into something deeper; something that you can cultivate off your mat and outside the yoga studio.
So, how does your intention translate into your life off the mat?
Your intention is a powerfully energetic tool. By throwing all of your concentration at it for 60 to 75 minutes on your mat, you are cultivating a tremendous amount of energy. It builds a bridge between your work on your mat and your life off the mat, as you begin to uplift and embody this positive energy in all aspects of your life.
Now that you have a full grasp on what intentions are, take a look at these three out-of-the-box types of intentions that will rock your world.
1. Gratitude- What are you grateful for? Even in the stressful, unclear, tough times of our lives, we each have something to be thankful for. Food, shelter, friendship, a job, sunshine...the list goes on. These are the little things that make it possible to get out of bed and keep moving each day. Your intention could simply be an item or abstract concept (like friendship) that you wouldn’t want to live without. Focus on the people, things, and situations that bring light to your life. All things around us and within us are miracles. If we choose to live as everything is a gift, we are living our lives with deep appreciation and gratitude. It will change your perspective and attitude (yes, I guarantee it!!).
2. Forgiveness- I hate to break it to you, but, uh, you’re not perfect. Neither am I. None of us are perfect. We’ve made mistakes, hurt people near and dear to us, and sometimes we don’t even realize it. Not all of our wrongs are intentional, but that doesn’t mean we can’t benefit from some forgiveness. For this type of intention, you could select an instance where someone wronged you and send some positive thoughts toward that person. The cool thing is, this positive meditation really works! When you repeat it over and over again, you’ll begin to truly forgive and move on. When you learn to forgive yourself, you can forgive anyone.
3. Guidance- if you’ve ever felt filled to the brim with worries and overcome by the amount of items on your to-do list, you’ve realized that we can’t always do things on our own. Sometimes in life, we need help, and coming to this realization is often half the battle! Your intention could be an aspect of your life that needs a little assistance from an outside person or resource. For example, maybe you need some support with making a big decision. Maybe you’re looking a little deeper and need guidance on how to build patience or confidence.
Taking the time to set an intention at the beginning of each practice will honestly revolutionize your practice, moving from a great physical workout to the full mind, body, and spirit experience that we lovingly call yoga.
Give it a try, it can only make you stronger, happier and more fulfilled!