The first time I ever set foot on a yoga mat, I was about 15 and extremely excited about the concept of beginning my yoga practice.
I remember anxiously waiting at the top of my mat for instructions from my yoga instructor. All was well, until she told us to, “set your yoga intention for your practice.” I had my hands together in prayer pose and as I looked around, everyone else had their eyes closed. I stood there simply wondering, “what am I supposed to do now?”
What is a yoga intention?
Many years and countless asanas later, the yoga intention I set at the beginning of my practice constantly changes. However regardless of what it is, I always make sure to set one now. For those new to yoga, this probably seems as foreign as it seemed to me on that first day, but a yoga intention is quite personal and not many either inside or outside the yoga studio explain what it is exactly you are supposed to do for those few breaths before beginning your asanas.
Setting a yoga intention to suit your practice and your day:
So where does one begin with a term as broad as “intention”? On my first day of yoga all I could think about was surviving those 90 minutes of class, and to be honest that was probably the best one I could have set on that particular day.
Ever since then, my intention has changed nearly daily:
Some days, especially when I have had a stressful day, my intention is along the lines of spending those 90 minutes on my yoga mat, simply clearing my head.
On other days, when I am having a difficult time dealing with someone in my life whether that person is a partner, a friend, family member or co-worker, I find that my intention is more compassionate.
On those days I simply look to come out of yoga having gained empathy through my practice so that I am able to forgive and better understand whatever difficulty it is I am having.
However, a lot of the time I find that my intention is more yoga-centric and I try to set it along the lines of what my body needs that day. On those days it can be as broad as simply wanting to listen better to my body. Or if I haven’t been minding my diet correctly, I go into those days wanting to learn how to pay my body better attention so that I can give it the proper nutrition it needs. Other times, when I feel that a part of my body is in pain, I go into my practice wanting to ease whatever aches I am feeling. More often than not, it is my back or my hips and I look forward to opening up my hips and concentrating on the alignment of my back with every pose.
I now know that the proper intention can go a long way and that if I am able to maintain my focus on my intention, whatever it might be that particular day, I will continue to reap the benefits of yoga, long after I have completed my last breath in shavasana.
Image Source: Wikimedia (Abhisek Sarda)