Why set an intention?

At the beginning of every class I teach, I offer the opportunity to set an intention for the class. Students can always set their own intention if they would like, they can choose the class intention or they don’t have to consider one at all. My intentions can range from a physical intention of finding space in a certain area of the body or perhaps a spiritual or mindful intention. It really can be anything we would like to focus on. 

I was recently asked why I do this at every class and if I did it for my own practice. My gut reaction was to say ‘why shouldn’t we do this’. At a very simple level, it’s a really nice way to begin class by thinking of something to work on within ourselves. It’s nice to bring ourselves to turn focus inward.  It’s also an invitation to fully bring the focus into the room. With everything we have on our plates these days, it’s nice to be able to invite people into themselves with an intention. Allowing them permission to think about themselves for a change can be all that they need to really have that mindful practice that they are craving. It also serves as a way to bring us back when we get lost in thought throughout the practice. I know you know what I’m talking about. It’s that day when everything that could have gone wrong actually goes wrong so you come to yoga practice to try to find balance within yourself before the next day arrives with even more chaos. You’re sitting there on your mat and all you can do is think about your day. Every time you mind begins to become silent, you think of something else you could have done to make the day a bit better. It’s all those ‘should have’ statements that you wish you could turn off. When your mind goes there, you might really struggle to think of something else. This is where the intention setting can help. It’s a safe topic that you can keep coming back to throughout the class to help get those other thoughts (that are not helpful or healthy for you to have) out of your head. 

I do this in my own practice as well. I just choose something that inspires me or that I’d like to work on to keep in my mind as I practice. For me, I find it’s especially helpful for when I am practicing headstands. I like inversions but headstands can be hard. Before I ever get into a headstand, I find my intention. I focus on it and breathe my way through the pose. It can really make a difference in how the pose feels and how I feel after I get out of it. If I focus on something positive when I practice the pose, then the pose results in positive feelings afterwards. If I let the struggles of the day come through when I practice my headstand (or any part of my practice for that matter) the practice tends not to be so positive.  

For me, the intention ultimately brings focus and positivity. Consider what it might do for you if you haven’t set an intention for your practice before. We can use intentions to change our thoughts, to reach a goal, or simply just to feel better. Take some time to plan a few intentions for your yoga practice this week and see what you feel.