As contemporary yoga practitioners in our modern western world, a great many of us enjoy the physical benefits classes offer. We often show up to practice for the same reason we eat our cruciferous vegetables. Or diligently floss our teeth. Our movement routine can easily become part of our physical and mental hygiene practice, and as such can become another bullet point on our to-do list. It’s a fantastic thing to have on our to-do lists, for sure. A single class of thoughtful movement and breath will almost instantaneously make the body feel recharged, and significantly shift the course of our entire day for the better.
But I’d also hazard to guess, many of us show up for deeper, more subtle reasons as well. Every one of us who makes the effort to arrive on the mat has an intention of sorts - a “why” for showing up. Sometimes the intention is abundantly clear - we want to move, destress, strengthen our muscles and joints, and create more ease in our daily lives. And sometimes, if we allow ourselves to pull back the layers, the WHY for making it to the mat is a thread that runs into a deeper, more profound purpose.
Even after years of teaching and practicing, I can still mentally freeze up when an instructor invites me to set an intention at the beginning of class. It’s like that game where you go around the circle and everyone in the group has to say something interesting about themself. My mind invariably goes utterly and completely blank, and by the time it’s my turn I can’t think of a single thing to say. The same can be true when I’m put on the spot and asked to acknowledge my “why” for practicing.
After being rendered a deer in the headlights one time too many, I decided I’d consider my intention on the drive to class. I do this both when teaching, and when I’m the student. Now when I arrive on my mat, I am already clear about what it is I’m practicing - my why for the day. It’s malleable, it shifts and changes depending on what’s going on internally and externally in my world. Sometimes what comes up as my daily intention even surprises me. It might be something I’m working to cultivate in my life, it might be a manifestation, oftentimes it’s a prayer for someone else.
This little ritual is one of the many ways I see my yoga practice extend beyond the studio and into my everyday life, and I’d like to invite you to give it a whirl if this speaks to you. Whenever you think of it, get curious about your intention. What are you practicing as you move on your mat, and throughout the course of your day?
Showing up to practice because you know it’s a beneficial trajectory toward mental clarity and physical health is sometimes more than enough. But there’s always room to layer in something deeper. When we are clear with ourselves and truly connect with our intentions, we have the power to shift everything.