It is a New Year. Time to refresh our Yoga practice. And what better way to refresh your practice than to return to the beginning. The Intention. Setting an intention is the first step in the practice of Yoga. Without intention, it is simply just an exercise. You may have a physically perfect Yoga practice, but without intention it loses its transformational power. Someone practicing with intention will have a very different experience from someone practicing without intention. It gives the practice a deeper purpose.
So what exactly is intention? Many times I will hear a yoga teacher say "Please take a moment to set your intention". But what does this mean? There is often no explanation. If you are new to yoga, it may be confusing when you are asked to set an intention. According to Phillip Moffet, founder and president of the Life Balance Institute, intention is a practice focused on how you are "being" in the present moment. "You set your intentions based on understanding what matters most to you and make a commitment to align your worldly actions with your inner values." Your intentions stay with you in each moment, in every action, in every day. It is a way to guide your actions, thoughts and emotions.
Intentions are often confused with goals. Since it is the beginning of the New Year, many of us are setting goals for ourselves. Setting goals can be valuable; they help you to organize your time and energy and provide direction. However, goals are oriented toward a future outcome. Intention is rooted in the present. You can be your intention, whereas you cannot be your goal. Here is an example. Say that your intention is to live compassionately, showing compassion to yourself and to others. Compassion can be lived in every moment, it can exist in every thought. It is present independent of the current situation or future outcome. It is there whether or not you achieve your goals. If you set this intention at the beginning of your yoga practice, you are constantly reminding yourself to have compassion for yourself and for those around you. You pay attention to when you need to rest, you allow judgment of those around you to fall away and you live your intention. You are making a decision to live each moment with compassion. It is like an attitude or a state of mind rather than something you are hoping to get in the future.
When you come to your mat in 2010, make intention setting your first step. Notice how aligning your worldly actions and your inner values affects your practice and your life. I think you will enjoy it!