At the beginning of each yoga class I set an intention.
It is open to all, but forced on no one.
Instead, it is an offering I place in the space. I welcome students to connect with it, and make any necessary correlations to the subject of the intention with their body, breath or mind.
Doing this allows us all to get on the same train together to make a journey of self discovery. Of course any one who wants to set their own intention has only to think of what they need in terms of emotions, physicality, or reward in order to figure out what they want to mentally explore in their physical practice.
Adversely, it’s easy to see how you can reap physical benefits without the presence of intention. However, the mind/body connection is not necessarily as strong since you aren’t delving into your consciousness and establishing a truth or dealing with how you feel about a particular subject.
Taking a yoga class without an intention is much like getting into a car without having a destination. Instead of reaching the destination by the end of the journey, you may end exactly where you started.
At the beginning of the class a teacher may plant a seed of intention, or offer that you set your own personal intention for the class. Much in the way of a topical meditation or concept meant to root you in the now and give a focus for mental work, intentions are not long term goals like achieving a particular pose or losing weight. Instead they might deal with anger, dharana (concentration) or letting go. These are clear and simple concepts which you can immediately relate to and apply to body, breath or mind.
2. Once the seed is planted, water it.
Admittedly, this becomes slightly easier once physical asanas do not occupy all of your thoughts while practicing. It is essential even at the novice level, and especially when cultivating a home practice that an intention be established.
So how do you grow the seeds once they are planted? By bringing the intention back from time to time.
When you find your self in down dog during class, this is a great time to revisit your intention. These continued revisits or stops along the journey should help you to find a deeper root to the present, and sometimes allow you to let go of mental baggage or resolve a conflict that may have been deep inside of you.
Meditation can be challenging sometimes; intention in a flowing class is much like a moving meditation allowing you to pick it up and put it down. This is often why so many yogis & yoginis flock to physical styles of Yoga. It becomes much easier to focus on the physical right here and right now. The body speaks to you, and if you aren’t listening, it will yell at you.
Intentions allow us to listen to the body, breath and mind with enhanced hearing.
3. Give it some Sunlight.
Your intention is not something that should only stay with you on the yoga mat, but instead should linger with you through your day. Make sure that you revisit your intention at the end of class to help maintain it’s presence well after you mat has been rolled up and you’ve left the studio.
4. Give it time and space.
For example, let’s say your intention is clarity. Each time you start to feel bound in conflict, try to take a step back. Re-acknowledge your intention. Try to set the conflict aside if it is something that you are not able to process right away.
Connect with your mental attachments to the idea of clarity and see if you can figure out why you don’t have it, or what may be standing in the way of being able to attain it. Really try to explore your intention as a topical meditation seeing both the positive and negative connotations you associate with it.
Now that you have established a method for exploring your intention you are steps closer to fully embracing it. Just as a tightly budded flower allows its petals to bloom, so will you be able to slowly unfold your conflict and find new knowledge through this aspect of intention, a part of svadyaya (self study).
Remember that yoga is a mental and physical practice. By diving deeper into a practice with intention you are in fact rooting yourself deeper into the practice of yoga.
As for me, I share the intention with my classes when I teach. Instead of asking if I am gaining clarity in my personal practice, I ask myself if I am completely focused on the person I’m assisting. In this way I am freeing my mind of personal conflicts and creating a deeper connection to my students. In this way both students and teachers are able to share in the benefits of working with intentions in yoga classes.
Editor: Jennifer Cusano
Sinda Anzovino, E-RYT, CATYMT, former owner and teacher trainer of Yoga Journey RYS, currently teaches for New York Sports Club, Destination Maternity and White Plains Hospital and lives with her 2 children in Westchester, NY. Sinda has a fun and light hearted approach to her teaching that embraces all who study with her!