*This article was written by Ashlyn Rochester for My Vinyasa Practice*
Setting an intention for your yoga practice helps you bring the work you do on the mat to your life outside of the mat. It helps you incorporate yoga into your lifestyle and brings the intention and yoga to everything you do outside your asana practice.
What is an Intention?
An intention is a quality of virtue you want to bring your awareness and attention to on and off the mat. Think of it like a mini New Year’s resolution. It is also something you’d like to cultivate in yourself.
The word intention comes from the Latin word intendere or intentio which means stretching and purpose. The idea is that if we choose the appropriate intention, we are stretching ourselves beyond where we are at currently. This could mean stretching toward a new state of mind, action, feeling, or life path.
Common intentions we see for yoga practices are gratitude, being present, awareness of breath, forgiveness, letting go, being open to receive, etc. It’s also common to set intentions using the 8 limbs of yoga. For example, Yama Ahimsa or kindness and non-harming to the self, or Satya for truthfulness. All of these apply to life on and off the mat since it can be incorporated into your asana practice, but also your life.
What is a Dedication?
An intention is different from a dedication. A dedication is the conscious decision to send positive energy to someone. It’s meant to inspire and motivate you to stay present on the mat. Some examples of who yogis dedicate their practice to are friends and family, an idea, or a higher power. The dedication will help you share the positive energy you create on your yoga mat with the receiver of the dedication.
What is a Goal?
An intention might sound like a goal, but it’s different. A goal is a dream or desire with an end result we actively work towards. But an intention doesn’t have an end goal. In fact, it continuously flows through your words, thoughts, and actions.
Why Use an Intention?
When you use your intention on the mat, it can help you stay present and focused. Off the mat, it continues to help you focus and uplift your energy and increase your vibration. You are able to express your authentic truth with this intention that creates the energy that other people will notice. This helps inspire others around you when you live a yogic life like this.
An intention also works to manifest and create in your life. This is because it is a consistent reminder you’ve set in your heart and mind. And by consistently working with that intention, you train yourself to be committed to that intention on and off the mat.
How to Set an Intention
To choose the right intention, you have to take inventory of where you are now (and without judgment!). This means assessing current physical or emotional and temporary or deep wounds that need to be healed. With an intention, you can heal these wounds by moving the energy from one to another. As we said before, the energy you create on the mat with your intention can carry off the mat at the end of your asana practice.
And an intention doesn’t have to be set just in a yoga context. You can set an intention for the day as soon as you wake up. Some examples that can be carried through the day to bring you focus are gratitude, patience, inner strength, abundance, compassion, honesty, and kindness.
Once your intention is set, on or off your yoga mat, let it guide you through the day. Your intention should help you be mindful of your thoughts, actions, and words. If you want to learn more about intention setting, you may take a look at the My Vinyasa Practice Yoga Teacher Training!