Yoga lessons often begin with an intention. We’re not talking about the goal of simply practicing yoga, but the desire to achieve something that fosters a sense of fulfillment. Setting intentions for practice is often overlooked by beginner yogis, but it is one of the most meaningful experiences yoga provides. After all, yoga is intended to blend mind with body by using mindfulness practices that attend to both our physical and mental selves. So, how can we create meaningful intentions that enhance our yoga experience?
It’s important to know exactly what we want to gain from our practice. Vague intentions do not help us on our journey because we cannot relate to them; they are distant and impersonal. Setting intentions that have personal significance can help us align ourselves with, and make guided efforts toward, achieving our goals. For instance, instead of stating an intention as “I want to feel happier,” try using “I want to focus on the present moment so I can recognize happiness.” This goal is much more specific and contains the answer to how we will achieve happiness (i.e. by being present).
Build Upon Your Intentions
Intentions in yoga practice follow a similar process as the goals we set for ourselves in other areas of our lives. To reach a goal, we decide on what must take place for us to be successful, and we often create many small goals along the way. To reap the greatest rewards from our practice, we should create intentions that focus on a central theme that can be expanded upon. For example, if someone wishes to develop self-acceptance, the intention for their first few practices may be to recognize harmful thoughts. After practice, the intention going forward may be to accept those thoughts regardless of whether they are true. Changing and building upon intentions helps encourage motivation to keep us practicing and working toward our goals.
Whether you are an experienced yogi or are just beginning the practice, it is important to remember that wellness comes from both the physical and mental selves. Postures and breathing practices in yoga reinforce our physical health and flexibility, but we rob ourselves of a crucial opportunity for growth if we fail to attend to our mental wellbeing. By setting effective intentions, we create a more meaningful and holistic experience that is well worth the effort.