Setting an Intention
Updated: May 27, 2019
Why do we often set intentions at the beginning of a yoga class?
Often in yoga we set an intentions for ourselves, which give our practice a direction, a mindful focus, bringing a deeper meaning to the practice.
As a teacher, I suggest that students set an intention for the practice, perhaps something they would like to give or receive more of – love, patience, strength, etc. It’s not like setting a goal for us to reach, but rather a suggestion of an area that needs to shift. Their source may be driven by our experience in the moment, how our day was, what’s going on in our relationship or the world or how we’re feeling about ourselves, or our current emotional state. When I set an intention for myself, I often just think “set an intention” and there it is. The intention seems to appear in my mind as such an obvious place to funnel the energy of my practice. There is a sense of knowing that this particular area could use some attention or acknowledgement.
Intentions can be passive or active. A passive intention is simply a suggestion that we make to ourselves, but it just floats around us without us directly working on it, like softening around a relationship, sending the energy toward another person or simply acknowledging something you’d like to give or receive.
An active intention would be one you deliberately recall throughout the practice that you’re working out for yourself. For example, if my active intention is patience, I would use each asana as an opportunity to practice patience, to move slowly and be patient with my body. The intention of a practice can also be directed toward someone else. Often we do this when someone needs some extra love or strength, so it’s like dedicating the practice to that person. We do this for higher purposes too, like world peace, or community building. Intentions are intended to shift our experience in subtle or overt ways. Either way, they are transformative and very personal. Whatever type of intention you choose for yourself has to resonate with you in the moment, but there are no expectations with intentions, simply a suggestion of a shift. It’s about being mindful in the moment and trusting that the shift will happen.