By Mia Barnes for Yoga Medicine.
You know by now that yoga is far more than physical exercise. It encompasses your mind and setting an intention is one of the best ways to get the most out of your practice. It’s a lot like magic, directing your energy into the universe as you move your body through space.
You can go further than “I honor my body and my health,” although that’s a wonderful mindset for coming to your mat. However, if you want to use yoga to transform your world, you should dig a little deeper. Here’s how to set a powerful intention for your yoga practice.
Check-In With Your Emotions
Yoga can be a transformative, healing practice if you struggle with mental conditions like anxiety, depression and addiction. That’s because the calmative effect on your central nervous system involves a series of physiological responses, not mere mental chatter. In the words of Buddhist teacher Thich Nhat Hanh, what happens in the mind affects the body and what happens in the body affects the mind — so by soothing your physical self, you can experience mental relief.
Therefore, check in with your emotions. Maybe you want to spend a gentle restorative class learning your body’s physical responses to anxiety. Perhaps you’ve been secretly concerned about your alcohol consumption and wonder what life would be like if you quit. Set an intention to explore other ways you could relax without a cocktail in hand.
Yoga can also help you process emotions like rage, frustration, sorrow and grief. These feelings exist not only in your brain but in neurons all over your body — that’s why you feel butterflies when nervous and tense when angry. Set an intention to let these roll over you like a wave as you work through various asanas, reminding yourself they are temporary and the way out is forward.
Reflect on Your Goals
Yoga can be a powerful tool on your path to self-development. Combining physical movement with peaceful reflection and clearing your mind is like hoeing and fertilizing your brain’s idea fields. It provides a rich soil for breakthroughs to occur.
Make overcoming roadblocks to your goal your guide to your yogic intention. For example, say you need to raise a few hundred dollars to establish a web presence for a small side business you hope to start:
- Pause: Take a few deep centering breaths to return your focus to the present moment.
- Visualize: Imagine yourself with the cash in hand for the step you want to take. Let yourself feel the pride of accomplishment you’ll have at this moment.
- Vocalize: Form your intention in whatever words feel right for you. For example, “I open my heart and mind to the Universe through my practice to let their wisdom shine through and guide me on my path.”
You can use this method with any objective you have. For example, if you desire to adjust your nutrition to improve your health, use your intention-setting pause to reflect on your improved vitality as you make small daily choices to promote optimal well-being.
Take pleasure in the journey as you set your goal-centered intention. Visualize not only the result but enjoying each step of the way. If weight loss is the objective, you might picture yourself enjoying your weekly meal-prep time.
Connect With a Higher Purpose
The word “yoga” translates to “union,” and practitioners have used it for years to deepen their spiritual understanding and connection with all living things. In fact, yoga began not as physical exercise but as a series of deep meditations. In the Bhagavad Gita, Krisha speaks of the four types of yoga — karma or action, jnana or knowledge, bhakti or devotion and dhyana or concentration.
You can set an intention to connect with your spiritual self or your higher purpose. Communal yoga — where you practice with others who share the same intention — can be a transformative experience. Some studios encourage such practices, offering free classes that generate donations toward a worthy cause as participants move their physical selves like a prayer in motion, directing that energy toward their objective.
You don’t have to perform acts of charity to benefit, however. A simple “I come to seek enlightenment,” spoken aloud before your practice as you clear your mind can form your intention.
Putting It in Practice
What does deeper intention-setting look like in practice? Follow these steps to integrate this technique into any yoga flow you practice.
- Arrive early: Some classes include a time for intention-setting at the beginning of practice, but not all do. If your local guide does not, arrive to class a few minutes early to sit in meditation and form your intention.
- Create a mantra: A mantra is a short statement of your intention. It serves as a focal point for your practice. Whenever you feel your mind begin to wander, mentally repeat your mantra.
- Let yourself feel: Explore the emotions evoked through your intention. Where do you experience them in your body? As you move through the various asanas, work on opening these areas to release the energy of your intent into the Universe.
Setting Strong Intentions for Your Yoga Practice
Intention-setting is integral to yoga practice. It’s one way to unite the mind-body aspects of this discipline. The above article helps you go deeper to set a powerful intention for your yoga practice. Transform your life through the power of movement and breath.
About the Author
Mia Barnes is a health and wellness freelance writer with a passion for covering topics related to yoga, meditation and mindfulness. Mia is also the Founder and Editor-in-Chief of Body+Mind Magazine. Follow Mia and Body+Mind on Twitter and LinkedIn!