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SCENE: You finally found that comfortable spot on your mat and are beginning to let the stresses of the day go. You’re starting to get the hang of breathing and maybe even the warm-up part of class is feeling good. Then your teacher says something to the effect of, “Take a moment and set an intention for your practice.” An intention, what is that, you wonder? I intend to get through this class without looking like I don’t belong here. I intend to attempt my first arm balance. What else is there? Why do I need to set an intention for my practice?

Good question. I love Deepak Chopra’s definition of an intention: “a directed impulse of consciousness that contains the seed form of that which you aim to create.” Read that again. SLOWLY. Let it sink into your soul and uncover what it brings up. Intentions are focused, conscious, and the beginning of a creation. Much like your yoga practice should be. Using your breath to blend your movements and unite body, mind, and spirit, your yoga practice is a manifestation of your true self. Your desires and dreams start somewhere. They start with an intention.

There are many reasons why we set an intention for our practice. When I think about it, the top three reasons are: 1) To focus the mind; 2) To link your practice to something off your mat; and 3) To add meaning to your practice. When class gets tough or your mind begins to wander off your mat and outside of your body, come back to your intention. When you want to a reminder of what brought you to your mat or need to work through something, make that your intention. And when you begin to wonder just why you are even practicing, an intention will gently nudge you in the right direction.

An intention is personal and therefore it can be whatever you want it to be. But if you are unsure of where to start, here are a few suggestions to get you started:

  • GRATITUDE: Think of someone or something you are grateful for. So often in our society, we are pushed to achieve more, acquire more, do more. Instead, acknowledge the fullness of your life and lift it up. Only when we are grateful for what we have, can we open ourselves to more. That more is totally up to you.
  • AN UPCOMING EVENT: Have to give a big presentation soon? Nervous about meeting that special someone’s family? Use the time on your mat to focus on your breath and visualize how you want things to play out. Allow this positive intention to implant itself and watch it blossom off your mat!
  • SOMEONE WHO NEEDS some positive energy: Whenever someone close to me is going through something or just needs a little extra love, I dedicate my practice to them. I use my breath to send them positive energy and love. All that positive energy is bound to do some good, right?

If you are familiar with setting an intention and would like to share yours, feel free to comment. Maybe you have some tips for yogis on how to do it. Would love to hear from you!