When I started taking yoga, I would often hear these directions at the beginning of a class:
"Feel free to set an intention." and/or "Enter every pose with intention"
As simple as these suggestions are, I never really understood them. I would follow the yoga teacher’s directions through class- moving, breathing, bending and flowing. In and out of poses, lungs filling and deflating with air. But the intention was not there. I loved yoga and I could see the benefit of taking time for myself and my mind in this safe space to move and breathe...and finally, I felt curious. What was I missing out on with the lack of intention? I left class one evening and immediately reached for my phone.
“Yes, master?” she answered.
Define “intention” I commanded.
“Intention. A thing intended; an aim or plan,” Siri replied..
I don’t typically like having Siri’s irritating voice stuck in my head, but I decided to hold onto this word and definition. I let it sit and roll around in my head. I wrapped and weaved my mind around it - observing it from all angles. Intention.
As I walked into the next yoga I decided to bring intention along with me. Physically, I decided, every single bend, adjustment, breath and movement would be done with purpose. I would engage each muscle and try to feel every bone and cavity in my body reacting to new shapes. As the yoga teacher guides the class through movements, he/she is laying out the plan. The plan, I realized, is mine to follow...and even though I had followed plans before, had I really focused in on each step? Or was my mind focused on the overall map? I can look at a map and know I found my way, but I think intention is about taking mind of every road and turn that completes it.
And what about setting an intention? When I settle onto my yoga mat at the beginning of class I give myself an honest assessment - why am I here and what do I want from this time? Because I am a naturally energetic individual I am often seeking a physical release as well as a mental release from my yoga class. When I find that I am really wound up my intention is often to take every flow. But every once in a while something is off...I’m sick or feeling strangely mellow and I realize that my reason for coming to yoga is not for the physical outlet, rather, it is to seek peace and internal reflection. On days like these it is more difficult for me to set an intention. I find it hard to rest but I do my best to honor my feelings and my body and my intent often changes to listening to my body and giving myself moments in child’s pose.
When you choose to honor intention both physically and mentally your entire worlds of yoga will shift. You will tap into different muscles and emotions and trigger different thoughts and senses. The next time you attend a yoga class, test this theory. From the moment you step onto your mat every movement, breath, blink and shift should be accompanied and guided by your intention that day.
Author: Dominique (Nico) Klimek