When I was first invited to set an intention at the start of a yoga class, I didn’t really understand what it meant or how to do it. I mean I can’t just call out to the universe the thing I want and it just magically happens, right?
Our practice supports us in so many ways. I always open my practise by checking in – physically and mentally – to notice how I am feeling. I can’t know what I need if I don’t know where I am at. Some days I feel calm and focused. I can drop into the moment with a sense of acceptance. Other days my mind is full of chatter, telling me I haven’t got time, making a mental to do list, sometimes a feeling of guilt that I can’t dedicate “enough” time to my practise or setting myself “goals” to appease some other niggle. Ultimately our practise is there to serve us. Yes we may work up a sweat and learn some funky shapes, but the physical aspect is to tone and strengthen and develop mobility so we can sit, at ease; enabling us to meditate comfortably.
But our practise can be so much more than physical. It allows us space to just temporarily let go of everything. All responsibilities, all labels and judgements. We can really notice how we are feeling and that helps understand what we need to bring back balance; yin and yang. Dark and light. Energy and calm. By identifying what we need to find balance allows us to set an intention for how our practise can support us to find that quality that will bring harmony. We can shift our mindset, try out new ways of thinking and being and if something feels good and right, if we do it often enough on the mat then we can start to take that same thinking and behaviour from our practise and apply it to life.
For example: I have a negative voice that can be very commanding and judgemental. “that’s not good enough”, “this will never happen”, “that always happens” etc. By being present in the moment I can notice this narrative. The stories I tell myself. The labels and judgements. The triggers. And I can make a conscious choice to continue as is, or to change and do it differently. What do I need to support me in making this change or supporting this approach? To be calm? to be confident? to be compassionate? to be decisive? To be bold? Courageous? Grounded? Light? Present? These can be our intentions. And they can change day to day and be as big or small as you like. Some days my intention is simply to notice when my mind wanders and to bring it back. Some days I need to move, sweat and challenge myself to push boundaries, step out of my comfort zone and to burn off the mental chatter, to have courage. Some days I may need to bring calm, so I notice the points in my practise when I am challenged, fatigued, frustrated and I make a conscious choice that these are the times I most need to choose to be calm instead of giving into the habitual temptation of negativity and doubt.
Our practice is not about what postures we can or can’t do. Not about how long your practise is, how many calories you burn, how much sweat you build or even how long you meditate. It’s about showing up. And its about being honest. Recognising you need time for yourself. And having taken the time, recognising what you need to feel good. In that moment. And it’s about what energy you bring. It’s about making that connection to the inner voice that knows what you need to find balance and harmony, and about finding the courage to listen. Maybe to step out of your comfort zone. To try something new, a new way of thinking. A new belief in yourself. A new way of living.