This past New Year’s Day, I taught a special class with a focus on cultivating intention. In snowy January (at least where I live there is a lot of snow currently), we find ourselves in the mood for a little inspiration, a little direction, a little something to keep us warm from the inside out. True intention does that and more. It can motivate you to continue even when the going gets tough, versus a shortsighted resolution that could fall by the wayside come February.
Like many yogis, I was introduced to the word intention in the first 10 minutes of yoga classes when teachers would invite us to set one before our practice. At first I wasn’t exactly sure what this meant, but over time, it became clearer to me.
I like to think of intentions as seeing the forest instead of the trees. An intention invites broader opportunities for personal growth because it doesn’t necessarily focus on just one detail or habit, but it can be a practice in making decisions that better align with your life’s aims. And intentions invite compassionate understanding: every day offers an opportunity to live intentionally, one choice at a time, and the risk of failure is mercifully narrower.
So how can you nourish your intention when you roll out the mat? Approaching your practice with mindfulness and lasting dedication is just one way to start. These are among my favorite poses to cultivate inner purpose and intention. They each offer opportunities to focus your attention, to challenge yourself physically and mentally and celebrate your inner power. Through these poses, set your dristi, or gaze point. Focus on your breath and your intention for a sustainable length of time.
1. Utkatasana (Chair)
After a few breaths in this pose, you know why this is also dubbed fierce pose. This standing pose is a surefire way to build your inner fire as you strengthen your roots, the legs. Keep the gaze steady above you towards your hands or straight ahead.
2. Viparita Virabhadrasana (Reverse Warrior)
I learned this pose as Peaceful Warrior, and depending on your mood, you might like that name, too. As you connect to your inner warrior this season, remember to keep your body and breath at ease as you invite more stability. Your gaze can lift toward the top fingertips, towards the vast, limitless sky above.
3. Forearm Plank, a.k.a. Dolphin Plank Pose
Talk about core awareness in this pose! Even though your mind might go to how uncomfortable you are, devote your energy to uniting some of your key strengths—arms, chest, abs, pelvis and legs—so that this pose stokes the core fire as well as invites you to expand your heart, too. Direct your gaze to a point on the floor a foot or so in front of your fingertips.
4. Parivrtta Parsvakonasana (Revolved Side-Angle Pose)
Twists offer great ways to tap into your power center as they invite you to move from your navel center. When you’re grounded in your center (physically as well as spiritually), you are that much more confident and sure in your sense of Self. Take your gaze towards the earth for added stability or move it beyond your top shoulder toward the sky above to heighten the sense of freedom.
5. Parivrtta Bakasana (Side Crow)
Now this is adding the fun and empowering feeling of balancing on your hands as you twist. Once you’ve negotiated the physics of the pose that asks you to lean your top half farther forward to help lever your bottom off the mat, delight in the effortless quality of this arm balance. Move your gaze out along the infinite horizon, and envision your intention within reach.
Remember you can do anything you dedicate the time and energy to fulfill. May this year be filled with meaningful and powerful intentions for you!