Personalize your practice by setting an intention.
You’re in a yoga class, everyone else in the room has their eyes closed, you begin to sense your breath, then the teacher invites you to set an intention… and suddenly your mind draws a blank ____________, then the panic sets in… “What do you mean set an intention? You’re supposed to tell ME what to do. I am here to listen and follow directions because I want to be a good student. I don’t know what an intention is. Huh? Why am I here? Serious?”.
Bringing mindfulness and intention to your practice, whether it is in your living room or in a bamboo floored aromatherapy filled eco-studio, is the difference between being instructed to perform the latest parlor trick of foot-behind-the-head and being invited to move inward to touch the deepest layers of your self. Some say it’s the different between a fitness class and a group yoga practice. It’s the difference between being a puppet on a string and becoming a pioneer of your mind, body, and spirit. Intention takes you beyond the confines of the obvious physical challenges to the challenge of knowing why your are moving there to begin with.
Yesterday, you may have gone to class with the intention of giving something, anything, back to yourself , starting with time. One hour of just you on the mat: a token, a gesture, a bow, to honor your self with pure undiluted attention to yourself. And you discover in this hour that through the mindfulness of breath and awareness in asana, you can master pure bliss in even the most obscure shapes and situations. A lesson you can carry away from the mat.
Today, you may have gone to class with the intention of healing an injury incurred over the long weekend. One hour dedicated to honoring your limitations, protecting the limb from further injury, and building vital energy, prana, to sustain the healing process. And you discover in this hour through the mindfulness of breath and aware in asana, you can master pure bill in even the most obscure shapes and situations, even if it means modifying the practice. A lesson you can carry away from the mat.
When you set an intention for your practice, the external aesthetics of the practice begin to dissolve into the deep internal inquiry of mindfulness of the body, mind, and spirit. You may begin to discover unhealthy habits or patterns that may be causing pain, or you may uncover hidden vitality within the body that you never knew existed. Perhaps you fell asleep as soon as your head hit the mat in savasana. Note to self: sleep. Perhaps in adho mukha svanasana, you felt the sudden urge to do a handstand. Note to self: do more. The scenarios are endless, but the practices and sequences offered are often repetitious. Each asana becomes more and more personal, intimate, and prolific as you align your practice with your intention. Each action becomes more focused and proficient when you align your efforts with complete mindfulness. Namaste
For more on aligning your yoga practice with intention, Valerie will be giving a weekend workshop on Topsail Island, NC, October 1-3, 2010 “Yoga Alignment 1-2-3: A paint-by-numbers approach to aligning body, mind, and spirit.” Valerie Baltzer is an experienced yoga teacher registered at the 500 hour level with YogaAlliance®, E-RYT 500. She regularly leads yoga teacher trainings, workshops, and classes in the Onslow County area.