At the beginning of many yoga classes, the instructor will invite students to set an intention for their practice or to connect with their purpose for being in yoga class. For new yoga students, as well as for well-practiced students, this can be confounding and disquieting. I, myself, have and continue to try to discover what my intention is in a particular class or during a particular practice. My intention sometimes changes day to day, and sometimes I come back to familiar intentions I’ve set over and over. So, what is this mysterious intention or purpose supposed to be? And what will your intention be?
First of all, I think it is important to distinguish an intention from a goal. I tend to think of a goal as something that has a specific end mark–something that can be worked toward and can be observed and noted once it is met. An intention on the other hand has more to do with a state of being. When I set an intention for yoga class I think about why I came to yoga class. Of all the things I could be doing, I chose to come to yoga class–why? The reason I first started attending yoga classes was in order to take better care of myself. So, for a long time that was my intention at the beginning of each class. I would think to myself, I am here to spend time taking care of myself, or I will spend the next hour doing good for my body.
The intention I set may be rather general, but as a new yoga student I wasn’t sure what else my intention was supposed to be. And I knew that the intention I was setting really rang true to me. My intention also provided comfort and a reminder to me when sometimes I would get frustrated in class that I couldn’t get into a pose like I wanted to or when I felt like I wasn’t progressing as fast as I’d like to. I could always come back to my intention–to spend time taking care of myself–and I would be able to cut myself a little slack by knowing that regardless of the fact that my Trikonasana (Triangle Pose) was not what I would like it to be, I was really there to do some good for myself, not to have a perfect pose.
So, again, what is this mysterious intention or purpose supposed to be? Well, I would say, focus less on what it is supposed to be, and focus on what feels right to you. In addition to just identifying why you came to a yoga class. You may think of certain qualities you want to take with you through a practice, such as peace, gratitude, self-love, or joy. You may also think of dedicating that day’s practice to someone or something else. But above all, look inside yourself and see what resonates with you that day.
I would love to hear your thoughts and examples of intentions you have set for a yoga class or yoga practice! Please leave a comment whether you are a brand new student of yoga or a practiced veteran.