why set intentions?

The concept of intention has always been a little confusing to me. In many yoga classes teacher have often uttered the phrase “set your intention for the class”. I never knew what was supposed to mean. Is intention another word for goal? And if so I usually have no goal in a yoga class. As a matter of fact I was under the impression that the point of yoga, or asana practice, was to accept where we are and not to judge ourselves. So why at the beginning of the class would we set ourselves up to judge ourselves by the end of the class if we did not reach the goal or intention? This is what I would always wonder about upon hearing that rather daunting (in my mind) phrase.

Growing up it seemed I got the impression that “good intentions” were not valuable if you did not follow through and live up to them. The message was everywhere: “You always have good intentions, but you never follow through”. Lesson learned: unless you successfully follow through, good intentions were just a tease, just an unkept promise, almost a lie. In other words don’t proclaim an intention because there will be judgement if you do not follow through.

As I walked through a bookstore on vacation a few weeks ago, I came across a book called “Living With Intent” by Mallika Chopra. I was moved to pick it up and flip through it. I bought the book and began reading it. Being somewhat familiar with the work of Deepak Chopra I was interested in what his daughter would have to say about intentions. Especially a definition. Perhaps it would help me to gather a bit more understanding. I feel better as I read that she too is unclear about the word ‘intent’.

Mallika explains that intents are not merely goals. Intents come from our soul, our heartfelt desires for love, happiness, acceptance and health. As we think about our intents, cultivate them and express them, the more likely they are to happen. However, we have to nurture them, we have to take action at the right time, and we have to make a true effort to help them happen. Most of all, we have to trust in ourselves to be present and aware of all that needs to happen to allow that intention to become a reality.

Trust…in me! A concept that I had never considered. I’ve often thought about trusting others but not so much in me and my ability to impact my own life. Yes I know what to do to keep myself safe, to keep my job, not to get into an accident. But I had never really though about the fact that I have already put an immense amount of trust in me. Trusting in myself to live with intentions true to my values and to lead me to my purpose here on earth is an amazing concept I have come across. Finding my purpose and my passion is my deepest intent, one that I had not really considered from this angle.

So now what? I slow things down, I take to the mat to practice. My practise may be preparing to teach an asana class, meditation, personal asana practice or, taking a yoga class. As I take to the mat perhaps I’ll set an intention for that practice, or the day, or the week. I will try to live my intention but I will try not to judge myself if I don’t live up to it. Being kind and loving starts with being kind and loving to ourselves. From there kindness and love will ripple out to others and eventually come back to us.


Disclaimer: All articles written on microyogi are opinions and not meant to serve as any kind of instruction for how to move your body. I am merely writing as a means of trying to find my own answers. I am not a medical expert.

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I'm a lab rat turned yogi. My interests lie in how yoga and meditation can help healthcare workers (and other frontline workers) relieve both physical and mental stress. Other interests include green living, clean eating, minimizing chemical exposure in our homes, and finally finding inner peace while minimizing anxiety.

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