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In the classes that I teach, I often invite students to set an intention for their time on the mat. Some days, it is suggested that an intention fall into a theme chosen for our hour together, while other days, yogis are invited to call into their minds any idea or person they would like to dedicate their practice to.
What’s the point of this, and where do we begin? Can we still set an intention, even when not specifically invited by the instructor to do so?
Of course. Your practice is your own, and it can hold any level of significance that you desire.
In setting an intention, we start with the mat. Our mat represents a sacred space on which we hit challenges, experience triumphs, shed tears, crack smiles, and most importantly, where we breathe. This is where we connect our breath with our bodies, our minds with our hearts.
The time we spend on the mat is sacred. Perhaps you arrive to a class with the intention of becoming stronger or more flexible, but notice how you feel as you leave the studio. It isn’t the same as executing dead lifts– there is a degree of magic that occurs during a yoga practice if we allow the space for it to unfold.
An “intention” can be anything. Is there a situation or relationship in your life that you are struggling with? You might set an intention to release the struggle, to open yourself up to a new perspective. Do you know someone who could use some love or healing? Set an intention of dedication to this person in your practice. As you move through your asana, remain committed, and let your heart expand as you envision love and healing being sent from your heart to theirs.
You might set an intention of cultivating strength, both physically and emotionally, to carry with you off of your mat at the end of your practice and into your world. Balance, groundedness, clarity, compassion, peace and inspiration are all beautiful ideas as well. Choose anything that resonates with you in the moment.
Begin by bringing the idea into your mind – perhaps even the first thought that comes to you (this is often what we need most). Spend a moment – or longer – with this idea before you begin. Allow it to sink in, feel it in your heart, in your body.
As you practice, it’s okay if your intention is not present in the front of your mind. It’s okay if you forget – staying present through the movement and allowing your practice to unfold is part of the process, part of the experience. Know that the opening of your session by setting the intention is powerful enough. All you need to do next is allow your work to take whatever shape it may. Remain present in the experience, aware of the sensations that arise for you.
If you think of it, return to your intention at the end of your practice to close out your session and to bring all that you have learned and experienced off of your mat and into your life. Notice any shifts in how you feel, any points of release, comfort or clarity that have come through for you. If you forget to do this, that’s okay – holding the thought, person, or idea in your heart at the opening of your time on the mat is enough to affirm what you desire and to open space for this to enter in for you as it will.
Setting an intention helps us to deepen our practice and to create even more meaning around this special time that we set aside for ourselves. Have fun with it, and notice all that unfolds.
About the author: Ashley Dunlop is a Holistic Coach and Kula Yoga Instructor who ignites fires in those who are ready and willing to make changes in their lives. She spreads a message of love, conscious living and helps others to meet their full potential. Catch up with Ashley on her websiteInstagram and facebook.