It’s common for a yoga class to start with intention setting. Do you ever sit there and think, “What does that mean?”
You unroll your mat, take a moment to sit still and hear your breath. Ahhh...everything’s feeling groovy until the teacher says, "Please set an intention for your practice." And suddenly your mind has left the building.
“My intention is to do yoga, lady.”
“Why does he ask us this every time?”
“What should my intention be? What's a good intention? I want to be calm and peaceful. I want to be flexible. I want to quiet my mind. I wonder what I'll have for lunch. I hope they have that soup I love today at Whole Foods.”
If you have ever experienced an inner dialogue similar to this one, congratulations! Your brain works and you're not alone.
The purpose of setting an intention for your yoga practice on the mat (called ‘asana’ in Sanskrit) is to remind yourself why you showed up. When your mind attempts to lure you into a rabbit hole of thoughts, you have something to come back to. This training of the mind is an effective tool for remaining present in your current state. Using intention to guide your asana practice continues to call the awareness back to what is happening NOW. Rather than just mechanically moving through the physicality of the movement, yoga asks us to show up again and again to what is happening in our bodies and on our mats by moving with a committed state of awareness. Combining this state of consciousness with a focused breath practice is where the magic happens! A fluid relationship between mind, body, and spirit is born—creating a felt sense of freedom to be just as you are.
Choosing one word or a short phrase for your intention is a great place to start. Here are a few examples:
Pick one and stick with it. When you come into a forward fold and start thinking about your pedicure (or lack thereof), cultivate some softness. Perhaps acceptance about not being able to touch your toes is what you're needing on a particular day. Rather than getting frustrated or noticing what you can't do, focus on accepting what you can.
Keep showing up. To your mat, to your intention, and to yourself. Namaste y'all!
We asked readers what intentions they often set in yoga class, and we were flooded with responses. Here are a handful of them:
I usually think about a person I want to send some extra love to. I’ll think, “Oh, I really want to send extra good vibes to Alyssa today,” so every movement I'll just be dedicating it to that person. Or sometimes I'll be like, “I want to feel good in my body”, or “I want to feel strong and empowered.”
It can be one word, a color, a feeling, or just a visualization, something positive I want to manifest in my life. I visualize this intention and feel that it is already complete. The work is done. I am reading You Are The Placebo by Dr. Joe Dispenza, and am convinced more than ever of our mind’s power and ability to shape our reality. This is why I love yoga, meditation, and intention setting! It gives you the time, space, and tools to learn to calm and train the mind.
I think about what I’m going to eat after yoga, to be honest.
I think about how much I need to seriously chill and calm down (after fighting traffic and such to get to yoga). And then my second and third thoughts are to have an intention of self-love and acceptance about where my practice stands that day.
I think about how I want to feel.
I focus on the thing that got me on my mat. Even things that we love to do require effort— organizing our schedules, getting in the car, fighting traffic, finding parking, remembering to pack clean clothes, and so on. I focus on what was worth all that effort. If I can’t get clear on that quickly, I focus on the fact that I have the same amount of time in a day as Beyonce—so slow down.