Setting An Intention


One thing is consistent in every yoga class I teach - whether it is Vinyasa Flow, Gentle Yoga or Chair Yoga for seniors....We begin and end with breath work. Using various techniques (depending on the type of class), we explore our breath and how it moves our body, we deepen the breath and find a rhythm we can try to sustain throughout our practice. Many yoga teachers will ask you to "set an intention" at or near the beginning of their class. I do not always do this, but it's something you can do on your own in any class, and in your own personal practice. This can be very personal and different for everyone, and there is no right or wrong way to "set an intention". Your intention may simply be "to move freely" or to "connect with my breath", or it might be "to lose weight" or "to get stronger". Some people also dedicate their practice to someone else. My intention is nearly always the same: May my practice make me better able to make full use of the talents given me in this lifetime to serve my community. In some Native American communities, members (typically male) go on a Vision Quest as a rite of passage, typically marking major life transitions or changes (such as youth to adult). The Vision Quest requires a serious commitment of time and energy, typically consisting of 3-4 days of fasting in the wilderness. It also requires a great deal of preparation before hand of both body and mind for the journey - preparing the body for fasting and the mind for many hours of isolation (similar to the yogi concept of pratyahara). This quest is incredibly personal and for personal connection with Spirit but it is also a gift to the community and tribe. The wisdom received on this quest is carried back and shared with the people. The purpose is to reconnect to our true nature as well as seek guidance for the life journey ahead. By separating ourselves for a brief time from the noise and obligations around us in our day to day lives, we are able to more deeply connect to our true selves and make space to receive the Vision of Spirit. Similarly, when we get on our mat and let ourselves connect with Spirit through asana, pranayama, and/or meditation, we change ourselves, which also benefits our community. It becomes a brief 60-90 minute journey home to ourselves....to who we are inside. When we live our yoga by making it a daily practice, and we truly follow the 8-limb path, we make space to connect with the truest part of ourselves on a daily basis. We realize our true nature and our interconnectedness to all living beings. When we live this experience and take it out into the world, we make the world a little bit better. An older yogi friend of mine, a lady in her 80's (who still teaches 11 classes a week), when asked the question "How has yoga changed your life?" responded, "It has made me a better person." So, next time you get on your mat, take a breath, and consider taking a moment to reflect on your practice and consider setting an intention for your journey...As the poet, Mary Oliver asks in The Summer Day “Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?”

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