Often at the beginning of yoga the teacher will talk to students about setting an intention for their practice. This is designed to help students focus their awareness and attention on a quality or virtue they want to cultivate on the mat. The thought is that by incorporating a specific quality or virtue into your practice, you will be able to carry it into your life off of the mat.

In the past, I would always select huge concepts like inner peace or patience as my intention. However, my awareness and attention during class was completely focused on either the inflexibility of my body and/or the difficulty of the pose. It isn’t a surprise that I rarely left class feeling any sense of inner peace or patience. During a recent class, I decided to set a basic intention of accepting my body for where it is. Whenever I had difficulty with a pose, I gently reminded myself that whatever I could do was enough. And as a result, not only did I leave class feeling more at peace, throughout the rest of the day I found myself being more gentle in my self-talk. That experience totally changed the way I experience yoga.

I’ve been thinking a lot about what it means to set an intention, especially as we approach the New Year. The goals or resolutions that we set are determined by what we want to accomplish in the coming year. Lose weight. Find a job. Write a book. Publish book😉. But these ideas come from our thinking mind rather than a longing from our highest self*. An intention is birthed at the core of our heart where we find our deepest truth. It’s our most heartfelt desire and realizing it leads to a sense of fulfillment.

We all want to experience the satisfaction of living a fulfilled life. So we set goals and make resolutions in January to guide our steps. But often, like my quest of inner peace in yoga class, we come away frustrate because our attention and focus drifts. We get too busy to go to the gym. We too tired after work to write, so we watch television instead. It takes too much effort to count points or whatever the diet requires. And at the end of the year we become a bunch of cynics, who don’t make resolutions because they “never stick”.   

What if instead we set a small intention for the year that speaks to our heart? It’s harder to figure out exactly what that should be, because we have to quiet our brain and actually listen to our heart. The heart is soft-spoken and easily discouraged. So give it time. Do that thing today that it’s urging you to do.

Go for a walk.

Read a book.

Take a nap.

Do whatever you need to do to listen. I’m going to paint.

Until next time. . .

Read more about Setting an Intention:

*Why Do We Set Intentions in Yoga?

Sankalpa: Going Beyond Resolutions

The Power Behind Setting An Intention In Yoga

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