Good Intentions

Have you ever been sat on your mat, ready to start your yoga practice, when your teacher asks you to ‘set an intention’… only to have your mind go blank, or start worrying about the massive ‘to-do’ list you need to get through after your class, or what you’ll need to get for tea, or that you snapped at your partner on the way out of the house. No? Ok, you probably don’t need to read any further. 

If you can relate, then let me share with you why I love to set intentions as part of my yoga practice. 

Why Set Intentions? 

Setting an intention can link what you work through on the mat, to what you take off the mat and onwards through the rest of the day.

For me, the value comes in allowing myself to focus, to check in with my body and my mind and ask myself what I want from my practice that day. 

How to Start 

At the start of your yoga practice, meditation, or even just your day; consider how you feel right now. Does that align with how you want to feel? What qualities would you like to cultivate in the day ahead? 

Your intention only has to work for you. You don’t have to share it with anyone, you don’t need to prove it’s relevant. Every person in class will have a different reason to get on the mat that day and their intentions will reflect that. And (unless you are plotting something evil) I don’t think there can be a ‘bad’ intention. 

It can be ANYTHING you want, and that’s very freeing… However, setting intentions can be a positive, powerful tool of focus and not a time to pick yourself apart or find fault – so reflecting that in how you phrase your intention is important. Keep your focus positive with your ‘eye on the prize’, and set your intention as though you are already there. 

So ‘stop negative self-talk’ might become, ‘I am enough’.

‘Stop staying up late on social media’ might become, ‘I prioritise my rest’. 

‘Stop (insert whatever habit or behaviour you’re trying to drop)’ could become, ‘I make choices that align with my greatest self’. 

I personally try to avoid using things that might be considered ‘goals’. Goals are NOT a bad thing, but in everyday life we already have goals to achieve and targets to reach, and deadlines to meet, don’t we?! My yoga is none of those things for me; it’s not something I will achieve, or fail, or complete. It’s a practice of self-exploration and a turning inward of my focus. 

If that feels a bit esoteric or forced, another thing to try is picking a word that represents how you want to feel in your practice – try and link it to how you want to feel after practice too, as you continue on with your day – ‘resilient’, ‘strong’, ‘peaceful’, ‘compassionate’, ‘accepting’, ‘grateful’, ‘joyous’. Say it in your head with each long inhale. Visualise each exhale releasing anything that blocks you from feeling how you want – self doubt, negativity, lethargy. Maybe combine it with an ‘I am’ to keep it feeling present… ‘I am grateful’, ‘I am enough’, ‘I am present’. You could make it a physical focus – write it down on a beautiful postcard, stick a post-it on floor near your mat, on your mirror or into your wallet when you leave the house that day. 

In Short

Your intention will ultimately guide your focus to what you need from your practice on any given day. It’s a reminder of that blissful ‘take on the world’ feeling you find when you reach the end of your practice, that you can carry with you and create a positive, and powerful effect throughout your day. So take your time, set an intention – and see what beautiful things you can put in motion. 

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