The Practice of Intentions

If you have ever been in one of my yoga classes, or any yoga class really, you have heard the word “intention”. Most teachers, including myself set intentions at the beginning of practice to get students into a mindset that is different from one that they normally navigate. It is a moment to settle in and let go of what is outside of the practice. I always offer an intention, but I also offer that my students take it or leave it, possibly even set their own. I want to clarify what I mean by an intention, and how it works outside of the yoga world. You can set intentions anywhere. Let me show you how and why it is a great practice to adopt.

First, what is an intention? I’m not going to throw out philosophy, science, or definitions. I’m going to share with you what I interpret them as in hopes that it is clear and useful to you. An intention is an idea. It is a shift in focus. A phrase or word that you can play around with for a short amount of time. An hour, a day, a week. It’s a short-term goal for your attitude or mindset. I believe that the more we navigate out thoughts the easier it becomes to see the good. When we navigate our thoughts towards the positive and find ways, however small, to motivate ourselves and ask the universe for what we want the less our mind is idle. Less time for negativity and self-doubt to seep in. Intentions offer a natural way to calm our ego and the thoughts it offers up out of fear. An intention is basically arsenal for the worried ego. The main reason it is used in yoga is because throughout an asana practice you have a lot of time with you and your brain. When we clear ourselves from distractions it seems as though we have to listen to what our brain has to say. I’m here to tell you that you don’t. Our thoughts are not who we are, they are a part of us, but not all of us. Often when we are distraction free our ego gets a little uncomfortable, it gets rattled. Especially when we are trying something new or challenging. Throughout the yoga practice you focus on your breath and your intention, you limit the wandering mind. You find the focus you need to hold a balance posture or move from one asana to the next. We can use intention to lead us with focus in the real world as well.

I like to set a weekly intention depending on what I have going on. If there is something I am anxious about I may offer the intention of courage. If I find I have a task list full of tedious tasks my intention is patience. If I am feeling sluggish or maybe have a little brain fog, I set an intention of creativity. I often have a weekly intention as well as a daily. As I am getting ready in the morning, I listen to what my brain is saying. I find the common theme in my thoughts and set an intention that will calm those wandering thoughts. Some days it is easier to find that common theme than other days. Some days I can’t find a common theme at all and it is all over the place. In this case my go to intention is grace. When you look at a day with grace it doesn’t allow room for self-doubt and deprivation which is always a good place to start. Often my thoughts change so my morning intention may be different than my afternoon intention. The goal is to continue to check in with yourself and offer what you need when you need it. Here is my 3-step process to setting intentions.

  1. Listen to your wandering mind and find a theme
  2. Set an intention or focal point for the wandering mind
  3. Check in again and again; reset when the theme changes

This may be new to you; possibly a little foreign. That’s okay! It is just like anything else, the more you practice the easier it becomes. It doesn’t have to be that deep. You could offer the intention of focus when working on a complicated task or energy when you are on that last mile of your run. It doesn’t have to be deep. Here is the fun part, you are in control! We don’t have a lot of control over some things, but your brain is in your control and yours alone. If you have a hard time coming up with a word look for a phrase or a quote that really jives with you. As you get started in this process it can be difficult to find that word that is going to speak to you. So, here is a list of intentions and matching quotes that I find myself going back to. These words may move you in a completely different direction than it does for me, that is what is beautiful about language. Interpret it however you need it.

  • Courage; “If it’s both terrifying and amazing, you should definitely pursue it.” -Erada
  • Wonder; “Wonder is the beginning of wisdom.” -Socrates
  • Patience; “I have seen many storms in my life. Most storms have caught me by surprise, so I had to learn very quickly to look further and understand that I am not capable of controlling the weather, to exercise the art of patience and to respect the fury of nature.” -Paulo Coelho
  • Focus; “Concentrate all your thoughts upon the work at hand. The sun’s rays do not burn until brought to a focus.” -Alexander Graham Bell
  • Creativity; “You can’t use up creativity. The more you use, the more you have.” -Maya Angelou
  • Grace; “When Grace moves in…guilt moves out.” -Max Lucado
  • Gratitude; “Gratitude will shift you to a higher frequency, and you will attract much better things.” -Rhonda Byrne
  • Peace; “Holding onto anger is like grasping a hot coal with the intent of throwing it at someone else; you are the one who gets burned.” -Buddha
  • Joy; “Ever since happiness heard your name, it has been running through the streets trying to find you.” -Hafez

Take some time today to try out this intention thing. You may find you like it, possibly even love it! Intentions get me through my days. They allow control and sometimes in this messy world a little bit of control is all we need. Always remember that new things take time, if it doesn’t come naturally that is to be expected. Reach out if you have questions and let me know how it works out!

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