Intention In Your Yoga Practice: What Is It & How To Do It

At Salt Power Yoga, we truly believe in yoga as a way of living, not just an exercise. While it's great for our bodies, the benefits don't have to end there. One way we can take our practice off the mat and into our daily lives is by setting an intention. 

What is an intention?

In Sanskrit, the word for intention is Sankalpa, wherein San means a connection to our higher truth, while Kalpa means vow.

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We can think about intentions in a few different ways, but one way we definitely shouldn't think is that an intention is a goal. A goal is an end result, like "I will touch my toes" or "I will do an epic handstand today". What happens when we don't nail that handstand, or we're just too tight to touch our toes today?

While well intended (pun unintended, gahhh), goals can often cultivate unrealistic expectations of ourselves and lead us to disappointment. Instead, think of an intention as bringing our attention and awareness to something we wish to cultivate for our practice both on and off of our mat.

A classic Vedic text known as the Upanishads talks of the way our intentions become our destiny, it declares; “You are what your deepest desire is. As your desire is, so is your intention. As your intention is, so is your will. As your will is, so is your deed. As your deed is, so is your destiny.”

Sankalpa does not come from the “head”, it's not something we think about, rather Sankalpa, or intention, comes from the heart. We must emanate it within and radiate it out of our selves. A true, honest intention shapes the way we think, feel and act.

How does an intention change our practice? 

An intention gives us something for our minds to concentrate on, you might think, "umm, I have yoga to think about, what else do I need?". While that's true, focusing on your asana is something, an intention give us another tier. When we set up for Warrior || we start by thinking of our alignment, our technique, but after a few minutes pass and our legs start to scream "enough!", that's when we can use our intention. Unlike a goal, there's no expectation what we must hold this Warrior || pose for a certain amount of time; instead, we can use our intention to change our thought pattern and if not make our pose easier, it can at least take our mind off the pain for a bit longer. 

Setting an intention is like building a bridge between our physical practice on the mat and cultivating a yogic lifestyle. Sankalpa helps you work through stuff on your mat, and continue to focus your mind on when you step off of your mat. It is a powerfully energetic too, as we nourish our intention, taking it beyond the studio and into our day, it can uplift our energy and increase our vibration. Our newfound energy might even flow on to inspire the people around us.

So, how do we set an intention?

Intentions come in all shapes and sizes, but as long as they come from the heart there's really no end of possibility. One guide we will stipulate is to try and avoid egocentric intentions, for example; "I'm here to escape my stressful life" or "I intend to be strong" - these are more goals than intentions and they won't help you reach the calmness or strength you desire. 

 

Here are three really, really simple but extremely effective intentions to try:

  1. Gratitude: Life can be really darn tough sometimes, but reflecting on the positive things in our life can be profoundly helpful. The reality is, we're really bloody lucky to live in the glorious land girt by sea, and as tough as things might seem, they could be worse. By setting an intention to be grateful for the things we're lucky to have, the people, the situations in our lives that make our us happy, we cultivate a positivity that will resonate throughout our day, and hopefully our lives. 

  2. Forgiveness: We might not want to admit it, but none of us are perfect. No doubt we've hurt people, just as people have hurt us. It's rarely intentional, but unfortunately, it's just a fact of life. By taking a moment or two to reflect on the things we'd like to be forgiven for, and sending out a few thoughts of forgiveness to those who've hurt us, we start to learn how to let go. Holding onto negativity and pain has never helped anyone. 

  3. Guidance: No man is an island. Life is a rough and tumbling rollercoaster, like that Movie World ride it's always a bit easier, and much more fun when we've got someone by our side. We all need help sometimes.  Reflecting on this reminds us that we're all vulnerable - which is often half the battle! Being honest with ourselves makes us much able more seek help. Take a few breaths to think about what you need help with

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Other intentions you might wish to work with are the Yamas Ahimsa meaning ‘kindness’ and ‘non-harming’ to yourself, or Satya, meaning ‘truthfulness’.

When we set an intention, we are choosing to empower ourselves, to influence the way we think, feel and act, for the better. It helps us to link your yoga practice to other important things and people in our life. An intention can help us clarify the root of emotions, work through emotions and put things into perspective. Ultimately, it softens our thoughts, helps us she the stresses of the outside world, and commit to the thing we came to the mat for, our practice. 

Salt Power Yoga offers a number of classes and workshops that help students to delve deeper into the yogic lifestyle. You can read more about of events here, and find our class timetable here

Namaste 🙏