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Five Pillars Yoga

Yoga 101 – Setting an Intention

The How, What & Why of Setting an Intention in Yoga Class

At the beginning of yoga class, our teachers might invite you to set an intention, which you can carry through your practice and then off the mat into the rest of your day.

If you’re new to this idea, it can seem weird and/or forced. Plus, it’s sometimes hard to think of an intention on the spot! Besides all that, you might wonder, what’s the point?

Setting an intention is not required at all to have a lovely and beneficial yoga experience. Stick with the body, stick with the breath and you’re already winning.

If you want to go a little deeper, setting an intention is something that can help invite a different focus into your practice.

And as you get more familiar with setting an intention, it can become a special way you think of someone you love, send energy to someone in need, or simply honor your own efforts to build strength, develop compassion, take time for yourself and so-on.

Some wonderful, simple and widespread ideas for intentions are:

  • To love and accept yourself so you can love and accept others
  • To practice being non-judgmental
  • To invite in softness
  • To invite strength and cultivate your personal power
  • To send the energy created by your practice to someone facing a health, emotional or real-world challenge
  • To develop openness in your body so you can face the world with greater openness
  • To dedicate your practice to people in need or a current world issue that resonates with you

So why do we do this? The reason might be different for everyone, but a bottom line is: Our thoughts are powerful. We are creating energy on the mat, why not channel that energy into creating a reality that is meaningful for us?

If you set an intention, try to check in with it from time to time during the practice. Sometimes I imagine my intention as a little balloon or a fire that is getting bigger and bigger with each pose or each breath I take. My movements are feeding energy into the intention, giving it strength.

After class you can explore carrying your intention into your day/week/life. Try writing it down after class. Or perhaps write down some quality you felt as an effect of the intention and class. Taking a picture of your intention and setting it as the wallpaper on your phone is also a simple way to remind yourself of the qualities you are cultivating in your practice and in your life. — Erin O’Brien