Resolve to Evolve: Set Your Yogic Intentions

January 1, 2018

Set an intention and infuse the new year with positive change.

On New Years Eve I did a yoga workshop with the wonderful Julie Smerdon at Shri Yoga. I used this time to reach deep inward and look for what it was that I intended for myself in that class and in my life for the coming 12 month cycle.

I’ve often found this time of year to be especially powerful in enhancing my yoga practice. Of course, yoga is always a powerful practice, but the gift of the new year brings deep reflection and introspection that can amplify processes of self-inquiry, expanding our spiritual awareness and commitment to yogic living. I’ve had a bit of a hiatus from yoga in 2017, becoming pretty laissez faire with my practice. So, with my word for 2018 being “change” I wanted to change that, and bring back consciousness and intentionality to my practice and my life.

woman in yoga pose

Resolve to Evolve: Set Your Yogic Intentions

Setting your practice intentions

Whether you do yoga at a studio, a gym or at home, it’s common practice to set an intention for your time on the mat. Like a new year’s resolution, an intention names something you’re seeking to attain for yourself and/or others. But unlike resolutions, intention-setting focuses less on goals and more on the journey which leads to certain outcomes.

For example, a new year’s resolution might be something like “I will lose 5 kilos” whereas an intention might be “I will practice self-care by eating nourishing and healing foods.” Both examples are specific in their wording, but the intention of self-care requires us to change our internal attitudes in order to practice self-love and, thus, self-care. You can probably already see how this s shift in thinking will bring positive affects beyond weight loss and will not stop once the five kilos  are gone.

This example illustrates how intentions have the power to create an inner change in samskaric patterns of thought. Samskara, which means “impression” in Sanskrit, refers to the habits and patterns that keep us stuck in the versions of ourselves we seek to “improve” when the new year dawns. Intentions seek to address this residue from within in order to achieve change, where as resolutions most often set awareness on the achievement of something externally. The difference is subtle, but important.

In Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras, it is said that samskaras cannot be erased by simply going into the mind and clearing them away. Rather they can be eradicated over time by journeying inward and realizing the peace and joy that is our true nature: “The moment you understand yourself as the true Self, you find such peace and bliss that the impressions of the petty enjoyments you experienced before become as ordinary specks of light in front of the brilliant sun. You lose all interest in them permanently. That is the highest non-attachment.”

If done right, an intention will not only lead us to achieving a check-list of external improvements, it will give us the self-led support we need to realize our true nature. Not only can intention setting bring about general self-improvement, but can also lead to increased self-compassion. How does that sound for a good start to your 2018?

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