3 Ways To Set An Intention In Your Yoga Practice
Yoga is about living a more mindful and intentional life.
I started doing yoga in 2004, and the idea of living a more mindful and intentional life was partly the reason I got into it. I was certainly attracted by the physical side; from the outside, it looked a bit like gymnastics, and ever since kindergarten I had always wanted to be gymnastic star.
However, the body-mind connection I had heard so much about is what really brought me to that first class in the yoga studio. De-stress? Quiet the mind? Develop better awareness? I didn’t know how we were going to do any of that, but it sounded good to me.
The first thing the teacher said in the first class was, “We’ll start by taking a moment to set an intention for your practice.” I drew a total blank. I had no idea what setting an intention meant. I intend to get better at yoga. I intend not to look like a fool in this class. I intend to pick up a latte on my way home. Clearly I didn’t quite get it.
Over the following years, as I learned and grew in my yoga practice, I continually struggled with the basic concept of setting an intention. I would often throw something out there like, “I’m here to dedicate this hour to myself; “I’m here to escape my stressful life”; “My intention is to sweat”; usually not with a lot of thought behind it and always with a self-centered approach.
It wasn’t until I attended my yoga teacher training with the inspiring Paul Dallaghan that I finally really got some value out of setting an intention for my practice. He didn’t actually word it as setting an intention; and perhaps that’s why it seemed less confusing for me. But every morning, before practice, we spent a few moments reflecting on three powerful categories, which I share with you below.
It’s important to note that we didn’t spend 10 minutes thinking about this stuff everyday (who has that kind of time in the real world anyways?); but two to three breaths per category, which is enough, especially if you’re doing it every time.
Gratitude: Even in stressful or impossibly tough times, we are lucky to have something in our lives. These are the things that make life a little easier, a little more enjoyable and that make you a happier person. Take a few breaths to focus on the things, the people and the situations in your life that you are grateful for.
Forgiveness: Let’s face it: none of us are perfect. We’ve wronged people, and people have wronged us. Its not always intentional and unfortunately, it’s just the way the world works. Take a few breaths to reflect on the things you’d like to be forgiven for, and sending a few forgiving thoughts towards people who have wronged you. In short, this just means letting go. Holding onto bad feelings just doesn’t do us any good.
Guidance: In life, we can’t do it all alone. Sometimes we just need help. Reflecting on this helps us to realize that we need help (which is half the battle sometimes!) and makes us much more likely to look in the right places for help. Take a few breaths to think about what you need help with.
Reflecting on these three categories has become integral to my practice, and often forms the beginning or end of the sequence when I’m teaching. It links my yoga practice to the other important things in my life. It also reminds me to put things in perspective and gives a much deeper meaning to those few moments at the beginning or end of my yoga practice when I let go of the stress of my day and focus on what I came to do: my practice.
Magical Mantras to Boost Your Energy
Energy is defined as “the capacity for vigorous activity.” Energy is also defined as the exertion of power. When thinking about energy on a personal level, think about having stamina and longevity to power your days. Energy is a key part of making the most of our days.
Sometimes we have all the energy we need to work, take care of our families, and even a little energy left for play. On the other hand, we all have days in which our energy supplies are so depleted we can hardly imagine doing any vigorous activity. Fatigue is a great way to put a damper on your day.
Beyond just feeling down, being low on energy might mean that your body isn’t getting all the care it needs. Your body demands lots of energy to operate at full capacity in order to build muscle, process toxins, repair body tissue, digest food, and perform many other daily functions. Many of these functions happen automatically without us having to think about it.
The Basics of Mantras
One way to boost your energy is to recite a mantra especially suited for enhancing your daily energy level. Mantras are an important part of many Eastern religions, including Hinduism and Buddhism, but are becoming more and more a part of Western culture as well. Merriam-Webster defines a mantra as “a word or phrase that is repeated often or that expresses someone’s basic beliefs.” They are generally a short phrase or a few words, so you can recall them easily and use them often. The more you repeat something, the more you give it meaning.
I use mantras for energy most often during exercise or when the late afternoon lull kicks in. A powerful mantra is a better work-out companion than a sugary sports drink, because it provides you with that extra boost of energy without setting you up for a sugar crash later. With an energy-boosting mantra there is all upside and no downside.
Another situation that lends itself well to mantra use is when that late afternoon lull hits. I used to work for a nonprofit in Washington. Our offices were in a large room filled with cubicles, with four desks to a group. Each of our desks faced a different corner, but at almost exactly 3 pm every day, we would all turn to the middle of the cubes and start talking to each other. Albeit better than downing a cup of coffee, but still not great. It was the afternoon lull, that time of day when your body is sick of being sedentary and is crying out for some energy. What we should have done is gone outside for a walk around the block, but a more likely alternative would have been to take two minutes and let a mantra give us a quick jolt to get us to the end of the work day.
Six Energy Boosting Mantras
Mantras can be an incredibly powerful tool. Begin by picking one of the mantras provided below and incorporate it into some aspect of your day or into your mediation or yoga practice. You will find that some mantras are more fitting to your personality, or similarly, a different situation might require a different mantra.
- In taking this time to be calm, I am rebooting. This time will help me rebuild my energy resources to get me through the rest of the day.
- Today I will be the best version of myself. I will call on my reserves of energy to give me strength today.
- I have more energy inside myself. I am taking time to be still, so that when I reopen my eyes, I will have found more energy.
- After this time, I will be rejuvenated. I will feel a new found strength and livelihood.
- Strength can be found within me. There is more energy inside of me.
- If I ask, I shall receive. If I ask my body for more energy, it will provide.
Creating Self-Tailored Energy Boosting Mantras
Powerful mantras can come from anywhere. They can be treasured lines from friends or family. For instance, my mom has a line that she says to each of her three daughters when she needs to get our attention. Over the years, she crafted them to suit each of our personalities perfectly. I’ll be honest that I can’t remember my sister’s special message, but mine comes through loud and clear, “You are the only Sarah I have.” My mom used this a lot when I was a teenager. Anytime she was concerned, instead of trying to tell me what to do, she would use this mantra to remind me to be cautious and to tell me I was important. Such a simple phrase was highly effective, because it was personalized for me.
While it’s not an energy-boosting manta, it still a good example of mantra coming from unusual places. Your perfect energy-boosting mantra could come from something inspirational a friend once told you or from a quote from a book or movie. All you need to do is ask yourself, after reciting this mantra, do I feel recharged?
I recently moved to a brand new continent – well brand new to me anyways – and have been struggling with culture shock and finding my place in what feels like a new world. While adjusting to a whole new life can be exhilarating at times, it can also be overwhelming. When I start to feel overwhelmed, I employ my new favorite mantra: This too shall pass. It reminds me that for every low, fatigued day, there are wonderful days filled with comfort and energy. Just this knowledge helps me reboot in that moment and look forward to the better days around the corner.
Mantras and Meditation
As I mentioned in my article on self-loving mantras, “a mantra is a great tool to deter one’s minds natural tendency to wander off.” In addition to mediation, mantras are associated with praying and certain types of exercise. Let’s walk through how you can incorporate a mantra into your mediation practice.
First, look for a quiet, peaceful place where you are unlikely to be disturbed for 10-15 minutes. I strongly recommend creating a space that you can use on a regular basis, but sometimes you need to use your mantra at work or on the metro and you will just have to make do. If you do create a space for yourself, a few options are a cozy chair in your bedroom or a blanket spread out in your garden. Be very particular about what you let into your space. Only allow objects that bring you joy and calm. For instance, I like to use candles and cozy blankets, but I have friends that prefer flowers, inspirational quotes, or soothing music.
Once you have your space settled, gently close your eyes, and begin to focus on your breathing. After ten deep breaths, start to recite your chosen mantra – either out loud or silently in your head. Let yourself go back and forth between focusing on your breath and your mantra for about ten to fifteen minutes. When you are ready, open your eyes and check in with yourself. Are you feeling a new surge of energy? If so, remember that mantra for the next time you are feeling low on energy.
Other Energy Boosting Techniques
In addition to employing these or your own energy boosting mantras, there are numerous other ways to increase your daily energy supply, the most important of which is to get a good night sleep. Other daily habits can boost your energy, such as:
- Stay hydrated or take it a step further and try a Hydrotherapy Detox
- Get your vitamin D (supplements are helpful, but barely scratch the surface compared to the benefit you can get from 15 minutes of sun each day)
- Eat healthy foods with lots of vitamins and high-levels of protein (like super greens and nuts)
- Energy Boosting Pilates
- Energy Lift Yoga, which can be combined with your energy boosting mantra for an added boost
- Go for a brisk walk. A fast-paced walk, with your arms moving, does wonders for jumpstarting many of the systems in your body from immune to respiratory system. Twenty minutes of brisk walking a day can dramatically increase your energy.
- Make plans to spend time with energetic, upbeat friends. Even looking forward to time with friends can give you a little energy boost.