Posted by on May 3, 2013 in Breath and Body | Comments Off on intention


As a beginner student to yoga, I was often unsure of what to do when teachers would tell us to take a moment and set an intention for our practices.  Or even more so, to dedicate the practice to someone else.  It seemed an odd thing to be asked to do, and I usually found myself sitting with a buzzing mind, glazing over the very request with an internal eye roll.  It wasn’t until years later, also at the time when my practice became more involved, that I started to think about what setting an intention could mean for me and my time on the mat.

The cue to set an intention gives you a clear moment to set a goal or to make a conscious choice of how you would like to move through the class.  Maybe there’s a quality that you admire or want to incorporate into your practice such as humility, patience, ahimsa (non-violence, respect for the limits of your body), grace, restraint or mindfulness.  Or maybe there’s a quality you want to leave at the door, such as competition, ego, hurry, mindlessness, judgment.  Setting an intention gives you a moment to reflect on how you want to proceed.  I like it when instructors also give a reminder within the practice to return to the intention; sometimes when we get into the depths of it we fall into our patterns and habits and negative spaces.  Mindlessness is also the space where injuries tend to happen, so a reminder to come back to yourself with intelligence can be welcomed, especially when the body begins to fatigue.

Sometimes we are also encouraged to dedicate our practice to someone who may be able to use some thoughts of lovingkindness.  I do believe that we can shift energies with our intention.  It’s not prayer, exactly, but I think it’s founded on the same principle.  When you create a positive thought in your mind and consciously share it, it can create shifts.  There have been times, too, when I’ve dedicated my practice to my partner when things were strained between us, and I found that at the end of the practice I was able to think of him with more kindness or compassion.  Other times, I’ve dedicated my practice to my son (sometimes, like when I was away from him for my training in India, I’ve set a toy of his on the corner of my mat) and found that thinking of him got me into stronger places and kept me going when I wanted to give up and shut down.  And sometimes I’ve just brought to mind someone I knew could use some loving thoughts, almost as a way of spending time with them.  When we dedicate our practice to someone else, there’s a sense of wanting to stay in a good place.  I think we naturally want to give the best gift we can manifest, even if it is completely subtle and immaterial, and so the dedication can often bring out our best practices as well.

The next time you practice, take a moment to create an intention or dedication (one or the other is best, it will allow you to hone in on the thought with a clearer focus).  Sit with it for a moment in your mind before you begin to move, and bring it back to mind throughout your class.  Notice how and if you were able to adhere to your intentions, without judgment.  Intrinsic goals, goals that aren’t reliant upon external validations to determine their successes, are the most rewarding and create the biggest shifts towards lasting feelings of happiness.  Mindfully setting intrinsic goals that are achievable can create real shifts in the long term benefits of your practice.


All content by Lisa Veronese. Please do not publish or copy my material without my consent.