Before practicing yoga, some practitioners like to set an intention or Sankalpa for the session. When doing so, you can take your practice away from the studio and make it one of mindfulness instead of an exercise class. This way, yoga becomes less about tight-fitting yoga sweatpants and more about health and wellbeing. But what is an intention and how do we set one? In this article, we explore the subject in more detail and discuss how to set an intention in yoga.
Setting an intention in yoga is similar to making a New Year’s resolution. Essentially, we are stating what we’d like to achieve from the practice. An intention is usually something that helps you to bring awareness to a virtue you’d like to improve upon.
Depending on which context it’s used in, the word ‘intention’ can have different definitions. Often, it’s described as a “thing intended” or an “aim or plan”. However, within the field of medicine it’s described as “the healing process of a wound”. In yoga, it’s interpreted as a goal we set for ourselves.
The word comes from the Latin intendere or intentio, which means both “purpose” and “stretching”. With this in mind, living up to the intention that we set will allow us to stretch ourselves beyond the place that we’re currently at. Sometimes, an intention stretches us into a different state of mind, a new way of feeling, or even a different life path.
If you’re the type of person to be hard on yourself and push yourself to the point of exhaustion, setting an intention to relax and recharge will stretch you beyond the current boundaries you live by. In contrast, if you’re someone who likes to be lazy, setting an intention to be more productive will stretch you beyond your current boundaries. Whatever your intention, finding the mid-point between that and your current state is called balance.
So now we know what an intention is, but how do we set it? An intention should be set at the start of your practice. Before doing so, find stillness. Focus on your breathing, taking care to breathe in through the nose and out through the mouth. Next, think about your intention and ponder on it for a few minutes.
When you’re ready to set the intention, focus on the quality or virtue you want to cultivate more of in your life. This could be anything from kindness and compassion to strength and power. Perhaps you want to cultivate health and wellness or balance and peace. Or maybe you want to become more mindful and present, or become better at forgiveness and letting go. Your intention can be anything that gives your soul peace and happiness.
When you’re ready to word your intention, try to frame it in a positive way. Instead of saying “I will not become anxious today”, you can phrase the intention as “I am at peace”. Below, we explore some positively worded intentions:
When you’ve decided on the wording for your intention, say it aloud or in your head. For best results, repeat the intention at least three times. Your intention can be revisited at any time throughout your practice. Regardless of whether you go back to it during the session, it should be revisited at the end. This way, you will carry it with you from the start of your practice until the finish.
“I am that I am” is one of the most powerful intentions in yoga. Repeating this before your practice will connect you to the collective whole. You can either recite this intention at the beginning of your practice or use it within Easy Pose. If you choose to do the latter, follow these simple steps: Sitting in Easy Pose, take a deep breath in. As you do so, chant “I am”. As you exhale, recite “that I am”. Repeat this process seven times. This intention helps us to feel safe and supported.
This intention can be used to express gratitude for everything that you have. This will not only uplift your heart but will also nourish the soul. Focussing on gratitude to yourself and others will also help to raise the vibration of the collective consciousness. You should focus on being grateful for all the lessons, situations, and experiences that have helped to develop your character.
“I am at peace” is another positive intention. Reflecting on this throughout your practice will help to bring your awareness back to the present moment. This phrase can also be used as a mantra in day-to-day life to remind you that nothing can disturb your inner peace. You are in charge of how you react to situations. If you want to remain stress-free, use this intention to remind yourself that you’re at peace. This intention will also help you to let go of the past and stay grounded in the present moment.
This intention brings harmony between the body and the mind. It helps you to connect with your emotions and listen to your physical body and intuition. For best results, repeat this intention at the start of your practice or use it in Mountain Pose. When in Mountain Pose, recite “I am Aware” and feel the strength flowing from your toes to the top of your head.
If you’re looking to take your practice to the next level, set an intention at the start of the session. If you’re still unsure about how to set an intention in yoga, speak with your instructor before your class. Providing that you arrive at least 15 minutes early, they should be happy to explain the process in more detail. To keep a clear head, it’s important to stay hydrated during your practice. We recommend taking a yoga water bottle in your bag to sip on throughout the session.