At the start of your class, many yoga teachers will ask students to take a few moments to set an intention for their practice. Some teachers may assign a specific intention based on the sequence they created while others allow for more flexibility in your personal practice. New yogis may find this practice confusing, so it’s very important to cover the basics you need for your class.
What Exactly is an Intention?
Your intention is the ultimate desire that you have and hope to cultivate throughout your life – not just during your time on the mat. These can consist of a number of lofty goals and ideas. The key concept is that your intention is likely to carry over into your day-to-day life instead of ending the moment you step off of your mat.
Intentions are a great way to keep your mind and body focused on crafting a lifestyle that more closely resembles traditional yogic philosophy. As a result, intentions often include things like remaining flexible in every area of life, cultivating joy, remembering to be grateful, or treating others and yourself with love.
In short, an intention is often a feeling that you hope to experience more of throughout your practice and your life. It’s the embodiment of yoga principles for the rest of your daily living instead of simply your practice.
When you feel your mind drifting during various points of your practice, your intention is there to bring it back to the place of greatest importance. This can be especially key during the gentler poses usually located towards the end of a sequence including savasana or corpse pose. If you have a meditation practice, your intention will also be a key part of aligning your heart and mind.
However, it’s important to recall that there is a significant difference between an intention and a goal. It’s an integral part of the practice to have both goals and intentions for your yoga practice. This can be achieved if you differentiate your ideas appropriately.
An intention doesn’t cover things that you hope to accomplish the same way that a goal does. Goals typically have measurable or quantifiable points that you can use to track your overall practice. For example, a goal may be to sustain an active practice for 45 minutes, to achieve a specific pose, or to perform chatturunga seven times throughout the practice.
Your goals are important to track progress but your intentions are what influence the rest of your life. Your intention may be the same for months on end or it could vary depending on what your inner-self feels it needs for the day or the week ahead.
It can be difficult to measure the progress you make on an intention but you still notice it. Making headway on your intention is often noticed in fleeting moments where you find yourself filled with more joy, more compassion, or an increased amount of flexibility in your daily life when things go awry. It isn’t quantifiable, but it certainly plays a large role in how you live the rest of your life from the moment you step off of the mat.