Your intention creates your reality.
Lokah Samastah Sukhino Bhavantu
May all beings everywhere be happy and free, and my the thoughts, words and actions of my own life contribute to that happiness and freedom for all.
It was the first time since I had started practicing and teaching Yoga that I had chanted Sanskrit and it was one of the most important moments of my life. I sat in that dark studio, with 20 other people who all knew the words and were dedicated to the meaning. We chanted this Vedic prayer three times over followed by chanting Shantih (inner peace) three times. Then, my dear teacher, Sarahji invited us to set an intention for the class. To dedicate the next 90 minutes, all the energy we were about to produce, all the heat, all the sweat and every single breath to this higher intention. I had never consciously done this while practicing Yoga and didn’t quite know what I should dedicate my class to. Then a little voice at the back of my head said: “Dedicate it to You.” And so, I did.
The resonance of the chanting moved me through that first class and literally redirected my life. I fell in love with the spiritual practice and the beautiful teachers and community that held these teachings so powerfully.
From that moment on, in every single class I attended I set an intention for myself. Combining a higher intention with conscious breathing and mindful movement is the most powerful thing I have ever experienced and these incredible practices helped me process and work through so much shit that was stuck in my body, in my mind and in my heart. It changed my life.
I processed ex-boyfriends, ex-friends, my parent’s divorce when I was a child, my road rage, my self-sabotaging inclinations, my self-doubt, my self-hate. I got to know myself deeply and intimately by using this practice of setting an intention. I have sobbed uncontrollably in classes and giggled non-stop. I gave myself the permission to let go, process and take control of my life. My teachers would often suggest thinking of something you’re really battling with and set the intention to find a way through the situation and after each class, there was an epiphany or a shift in perspective that helped me find my way.
My teacher Sharon Gannon says that you can have absolutely anything you want in this life, as long as you provide it for someone else first. So, if you want love, be loving. If you want kindness and compassion, be kind and compassionate. If you’re working on something really difficult in your life and you know a friend or acquaintance is going through something similar, dedicate your class to their happiness and freedom, to them overcoming this difficulty and you will no doubt find a way to get through your challenge.
I also spent what felt like years on my mat sending thankfulness, blessings and love to people who had really hurt me and broken my heart. This magic intention helped me to change those people from evil, mean, nasty humans into divine teachers who had the power to teach me invaluable lessons.
“Intention underlies everything. Intention defines where and what we stand for.
Placing our intention consciously allows us not to lose our direction no matter what obstacles we may find on the path. It gives us an inner compass to stay centered and walk with grace and confidence. Setting an intention defines where we are going. It determines our choices and shapes our future. Towards what do we direct our energy and our mind while performing an action, will determine the future result of our action. Setting a clear intention is an art on its own. To do so we need to be clear enough inside with our heart’s true desire. Planting seeds of intention also requires to know how to nurture them with care, confidence, love and compassion.” - Carol Issa - Jivamukti teacher
Okay, so what is an intention? The word ‘intention’ is a “thing intended; an aim or plan”, but interestingly within the field of medicine, it also refers to “the healing process of a wound”. It is so beautifully powerful to use your intention in your yoga class to heal yourself. An intention is something recognised as the practice of bringing awareness to a quality or virtue you’d like to cultivate for yourself.
And why is it so important to set an intention when we practice?
To focus our minds as we move through our practice and to give the monkey mind an object to focus on.
Consciously choosing an intention means you can direct your energy onto that object. You can constantly remind yourself of the object and bring your awareness back to it. In doing that, you are placing your awareness and ENERGY on this object, so you want to make sure that what you’re focusing on is something that will move, grow, serve or help you shift your perspective.
It gives you the ability to change things that need to be changed and ensures connection between mind, energy, breath, yoga practice and everyday life.
The wondrously wise teacher, Deepak Chopra says: “The sages of India observed thousands of years ago that our destiny is ultimately shaped by our deepest intentions and desires. The classic Vedic text known as the Upanishads 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.’
An intention is a directed impulse of consciousness that contains the seed form of that which you aim to create.”
It is now impossible for me to practice Yoga without setting an intention. It feels like a wasted opportunity to do the work if my practice is not linked to an intention. It is also impossible for me to teach without intention. When it comes to my teaching, I dedicate each week to a specific topic and I focus all my energy on that theme. The most magical thing happens in doing this, my life starts to reflect the intention. All the conversations I have or posts I see or epiphanies I have that week relate specifically to that set intention, which gives me the great ability to use my life as my yoga practice and teach exactly what I am experiencing. I believe this makes me an authentic teacher. When I started my Living Yoga teacher training, the first thing my teachers said is “It is your job as a Yoga teacher to guide your students to enlightenment. Your own enlightenment isn’t as important as that of your students.” So, the intention I set 10 years ago was to dedicate myself and my teaching to the enlightenment of my students.
Setting an intention is SO powerful because it allows you to direct your energy onto what YOU decide. Setting intention is not limited to your Yoga practice. You can set an intention for your day, for your week, for your year (new years resolutions). You can set an intention for a job interview, for a journey, for a relationship. And whatever that intention is directs the energy of that thing. It’s important to be aware of our thoughts and what energy we put into the actions we take because thoughts dictate our actions, which ultimately dictate our life.
If you are looking to change your life, the very first step you should be thinking of taking is setting an intention.
A few suggestions on using intention in your practice. Linking intention with your breath is very powerful and makes it easier to keep the intention front of mind:
INHALE - LET.
EXHALE - GO
Let go of tension in your body, let go of thoughts, let go of self-judgement, let go of expectations.
INHALE - Thankfulness, blessings, love.
EXHALE - send it to another being
Sending specific energy to a person who needs it (YOU are included in this)
INHALE - I am. EXHALE - Kind/ Happy/ Strong/ Capable/ Loved/ Deserving (whatever it is that you/ or someone else needs)
I encourage you, this week, to take a few moments with your eyes closed in the morning and set an intention for your day. You may well be surprised at what you are able to manifest.
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