what's the deal with setting an intention in yoga class?


It took me a while to get it. I think my first yoga-intention, at one of my very first yoga classes, was "to make it through class without looking like an idiot". Really. I had NO idea what the woo-woo instructor was talking about.

Here's what I know now:

  • Intentions are not goals. An intention is all about what's happening now. A goal is something you want to do in the future. So, in a yoga class...an example of an intention would be: "let me be non-judgemental". A goal would be: "I want to nail headstand".
  • Focus on the journey, not the destination. Sounds cliché, I know, but focusing on the JOURNEY is what you are doing with an intention. It's not about nailing that headstand, yoga is about turning your awareness inward: noticing your breath and feeling the way your body is aligned in the poses. It's all about how you are doing things on your way to your destination...and setting an intention helps you find a personalized focus during your practice.
  • An intention on the mat can also be applied to life...off the mat. An intention of "compassion" for your yoga class, for example, is also a great life-intention. You can be compassionate to yourself in class by not pushing yourself too far, or by giving yourself a break when you topple over in tree pose. And, I'm sure you get how being more compassionate OFF the mat is a good thing, right?! Yeah. Thought so.
  • To set an intention, ask yourself WHY. I think this is an easy place to start...WHY did you decide to practice yoga today? For stress relief? To look better in yoga pants? To be more flexible? To get away from the kids for an hour? We have plenty of SUPERFICIAL "why" reasons for yoga class...but take a DEEPER look at those whys, and you may find that you REALLY intend to find more ease (instead of stress), peace (getting away from the kids), more acceptance (look better in yoga pants), or more flexibility (not JUST the stretchy-touch-your-toes kind).
  • Your intention is your heart's desire. This is where I get all touchy-feely...so I might lose you on this one...but that's ok. All these deeper WHY questions can be answered by what your heart truly desires...you just have to take a moment, and ponder what that heart of yours really wants. Chances are, it's going to be a little more meaningful than busting out a tricky arm balance.

See? Setting an intention doesn't HAVE to be a woo-woo-esoteric-hippie-mama thing...(ok, well, maybe a LITTLE bit)...Ask yourself why, look into your heart to find those deeper reasons, and keep your intentions with you as you go about your day. Easy peasy.