If you’ve ever been to a yoga class you’ve without a doubt heard your instructor ask you to set an intention for your practice. And if you’re anything like me you sort of skipped over that part of class. Or on the off-chance I would actually set an intention it was usually something kinda lame like “relax” or “mellow” or “unwind.” If my intention was “relax” and I had selected a vinyassa yoga class I found I couldn’t relax… the two for me just couldn’t work together. There wasn’t enough there to keep me interested.
The problem with thinking about one word especially a fairly self-centered word is that’s not really setting an intention. All these years of yoga and I’ve been doing it all wrong. Turns out “unwind” doesn’t really mean anything and it didn’t give me any type of focus in my practice. Instead I would get into a pose that caused me to quiver. With my legs shaking, somehow thinking about unwinding was the last place my mind wanted to go and when it did it was more of a frustration.
After seeing a book recommendation from a friend, I decided I needed to get to the bottom of all of this… What the heck is a yoga intention? After years of yoga I know I’m not the only one who panics when they hear “set an intention for your practice.” One of my instructors lays out very clearly where the practice is headed and I adore it because it gives me a focus, it almost gives me a relief in that I’m not struggling to set my own intention.
Setting Intentions for Beginners:
Intentions should always be set in a positive tone. Most of us are pretty unkind to ourselves, we tend to support other with grace and kindness but have no problems being downright ugly to ourselves. So the first step in any intention setting is make is POSITIVE. Example: WRONG: Destress from my crappy job and misbehaving kids. RIGHT: To let go of stress not only in my practice but also in my life and those who surround me.
Don’t Over Think It. Not knowing how to set an intention let me make CRAZY intentions. I can remember actually setting an intention to hold crow for 20 seconds in one class…these seem ridiculous looking back but I’m competitive and that was my goal. But yoga isn’t about a pose or even a place it’s a connection of breath and body. And it took me a while to figure that out. So my advice to you don’t over think it.
Gratitude, Guidance and Forgiveness. When you start these are three fantastic areas to give focus to. We all have many blessing to be thankful for which makes it an easy beginner intention “I am thankful for the time and space for this practice” I have a harder time with guidance but it’s important to know we can’t do everything alone, and we can ask the universe for help with realizing that and accepting it. And forgiveness is a great time to forgive your trespasses and those who have trespassed on you.
- Open heart to the universe (let the energy in and let the energy out)
- I am thankful for the time and space for this practice (gratitude is an attitude)
- Let my time be peaceful (Ohm)
- Let me be strong (strength from surrender)
- Calm the noise (we live in a loud busy world, some of which comes from our own brains, quiet them and enjoy some calm during your practice and after)
Now be aware that these are my tips for intention setting there are ALL sorts of schools of thought on how to set and what to set. For me these are the strategies that have helped me transform my practice. I also realize that this post may seem a little hippie dippie and I’m completely ok with that. I too, was once a skeptic of the healing parts of yoga but over time and practice have come to embrace more than just the physical benefits of my practice.
Question of the Day: Do you set intentions? How do you set intentions?