Any reason that brings you onto your mat is a good reason.
Whether you want to be more flexible, stronger, calmer in your mind, or better at facing challenges, the reasons for coming to yoga are boundless, and let’s face it -- they’re all just dandy.
What would it be like, though, to move beyond all these fab reasons to something a tad deeper?
What would it be like to go beyond your muscles, bones, and mental health in order to bring your life’s purpose, your heart’s mission, the wham-bam-thank-you-ma’am of your entire existence to center stage on your yoga mat?
The Answer Is: Freakin’ Awesome!
Of course, all the other reasons you practice would still remain. You’d still feel great in your body and calmer in your mind, but something richer, more colorful would have the potential to take hold. You would be giving your practice a solid anchor -- something that uplifts not only you, but maybe all of human kind as well.
I know, it can seem pretty lofty to believe that your yoga practice can transform the world. But I know it can because I see and feel it every single day.
Let’s Break it Down
Say your practice makes you more calm and kind. You take that great energy and you spread it out, offering it to your family, friends, and co-workers. It’s safe to say that the people closest to you are directly impacted by your practice. They in turn feel more positive because of the encounters they have with you, and then they end up spreading this brighter energy.
See? It’s the ripple effect in action.
Even if it it’s only a small gesture -- like a simple smile, longer eye contact, a kind word -- these gestures impact us all in profound and lasting ways.
Creating a Deeper Purpose to Your Practice
An intention is not a goal in the external world. An intention rather is something you cultivate from within. It gets planted within your very being on an energetic and spiritual level and then your practice helps make it grow.
Your breath is the soil and your asana the sunlight. Your antara drishti (internal gaze) is the rain pouring in and magnifying that which you choose to focus on.
You might like to plant the seed of intention of Acceptance, Kindness, Playfulness, Surrender -- or it might not be a word, it might be an image or idea that moves you.
This intention then begins to influence your practice and the more you work with it, the more amplified it becomes.
How to Set an Intention
You might like to sit in meditation at the beginning of your practice and take some steady breaths to clear space in your mind. The wonderful thing is that you don’t need to conjure up your intention or think too hard on it. Your heart already knows what your deepest longings are and you simply need to pause, clear away the noise, and listen.
I know, listening to the whispers of the heart isn’t necessarily easy from the get-go, especially if your mind chatter is turned up to full volume. Stay with it though and be gently persistent, using your breath to connect into the possibilities inherent in the present moment.
Once you tap into an idea or feeling you like, you can then bring this intention to center stage before you begin moving on your mat. You can also call on it as you practice to see if you are in fact abiding by your intention as you move through poses.
How it Works on the Mat
Say for example, you decide to set the intention of kindness. You allow yourself to sit with this before you practice and then as you practice, you can remind yourself of this deeper purpose.
While you’re working on flexibility and strength and all that other stuff, you can reflect -- am I being kind to myself as I sink deeper into Warrior II? Would it be more kind to pause here? Is kindness at the heart of what I’m doing in this moment?
The intention then gives you a framework to work within and from; something that contains and expands your practice at the same time.
How it Works Out in the World
When you’re off the mat and out in the world you can also check in with your intention. While dealing with a grumpy sales clerk or trying to get a friend to see eye-to-eye with you, you can call on your intention -- am I being kind in this interaction? Am I bringing my intention to life through my words and actions?
The exciting part of all this is, that the more you work with an intention, the more pervasive it becomes. It begins to color the way you see yourself, the way you see the world, and ultimately -- the way you live your precious life.
Sankalpa in Sanskrit
In Sanskrit, an intention is known as Sankalpa. It is the vow -- the rule to be followed from within above all other rules. Your Sankalpa then reflects the deeper meaning of your life.
In order to keep your Sankalpa blossoming, there must be will, dedication, and action. How is this played out on the yoga mat? You must have the will to set your intention, the dedication to stick with it, and the perseverance to put it into action through the way you live.
It’s a great idea to stick with one intention for as long as it takes to see the benefits in your life. I know, we all love sampling every flavor at the buffet, but once you’ve tapped into an intention that really speaks to your heart, stay with it for the long haul. Don’t doubt whether it’s right or not. Show up, be dedicated, and allow your intention to evolve.
Your Sankalpa, this intention you’re setting, will become the mantra of your life. You can call on it as both an anchor and a slingshot, helping to keep you grounded and stable while cracking you open and shining you upward at the exact same time. Setting and living with intention will not only bring deeper meaning to your practice but will help elevate all parts of your life.
Do you have an intention for your life? Have you found it to be life-changing? Share your stories with us in the comments below!