guest post by Monique Minahan
In yoga we often hear teachers suggest we create an intention for our practice. As opposed to a goal, I like to think of making an intention as an alignment. Just like we align our bodies in a certain way to safely move into Warrior II, we can align our minds and our hearts to optimally move in the direction we choose.
Sometimes my intentions are a whole sentence and other times single words; for example, presence or gratitude. I find it helpful to choose intentions I can apply on my mat and also off my mat. Instead of having an intention to finally nail bakasana, or crow pose, I’ll choose an intention of tapping into my inner strength, giving my intention bigger potential.
I’ve used the same intention for months until I feel I’ve outgrown it, and other times I use a different one every practice.
This year I’ve been applying a concept I discovered in the yoga workbook Art of Attention. The question posed is this:
Are you trying to prove something or are you trying to emerge?
While this question can be applied to anything, I primarily apply it to my yoga practice because that’s where I get up close and personal with my ego, my willpower, and my true self.
Reflecting on this question I realized that in asana, the physical practice of yoga, the effort we put into a pose may appear the same regardless of which mental or emotional approach we choose. The external appearance of our pose won’t necessarily look any different.
It’s the intention that changes.
Whether you are trying to prove something (e.g., I’m going to muscle through this practice no matter what) or you are trying to emerge (e.g., the fire of tapas [discipline] I create by staying with the intensity is burning away blockages), someone looking at you from the outside might not know what’s going on inside.
But you do. You know what’s going on inside. Over time what’s going on inside starts to be reflected on the outside.
Applying this question to my current practice, I’ve noticed both happening. Sometimes I try to prove I’m strong enough. Other times I’m trying to create an opening for my inner light to shine through. Bringing a quality of nonjudgement to both gives me the opportunity for svadhyaya (self-study). Applying compassion to myself and my practice (ahimsa) allows me to love, accept, and honor both the striving human and the soulful being living in the same body.
The beauty of yoga is that it creates a safe space for us to practice, grow, and heal. It’s called a yoga practice because our mat is not where we truly prove ourselves or emerge. It’s when we get off our mats that our practice turns into the real thing.
Having felt our true self emerge through the process of yoga, perhaps we step out into the world with increased courage and allow our true self to be shared with the people we meet.
If my intention is gratitude, I often weave that intention into my entire day and find something to be grateful for in every situation, however challenging.
The power of intention is the power of choice. By tapping into this power I’ve found I can effectuate positive change, not only in my body and mind, but in my life as well.
Mo is a writer and yoga teacher who believes in peace over happiness and love over fear. She likes to set her sights high and then take small steps to get there. You’ll find her walking the dirt path behind her house with her little fluffy dog, practicing walking her talk by keeping her head high and her heart open.
Read more from Monique on her blog, mindfulmo.com