By Amy Leonard-King
Is it by magic? Sort of. I like to think of the Yoga practices as a little bit magic. We can liken the practices of yoga and magic, because we can’t always quite see how an outcome has arrived, or we can’t quite pinpoint when a shift has occurred, and that can make it all a bit mysterious and miraculous, don’t you think?
So what do we mean by ‘intention’, and how can we begin to perform this magic on the Yoga mat? In plain terms, and in daily life, whether we notice it consciously or not, we have intentions behind every action that we take, every word that we speak and every move that we make. Often however, our thoughts, words and actions are on auto-pilot, we are dis-connected due to sheer overwhelm of tasks, people and life buzzing around us. So we go on day by day and we come to a point where we feel a bit stuck, or in a rut – why is nothing changing? Why am I still in the same job, relationship, or feeling the same not-quite-right way, when I dream of things changing? Ring any bells…?
Have you heard the quote: “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results”? (Author Unknown) This is essentially what we are doing day by day, when going about our lives without full conscious awareness.
Let’s start small. When you wake up in the morning, try 5-10 minutes of meditation to start your day. There are plenty of meditation apps out there, a favourite of mine is Smiling Mind, and another subscription-based service that I love with online Yoga classes too is Yoga Glo. For some of us 10 extra minutes in the morning can feel like a lifetime when up against 10 extra minutes on the snooze button, but trust me, your body and mind will thank you for it and in time it will be something you look forward to with great anticipation! Starting the day with meditation will set you up to begin making more conscious decisions – what do you feel like for breakfast, rather than going straight for whatever’s quickest and easiest. After your morning meditation you might set an intention for your day – to practice gratitude whenever something starts to take you away from how you want to feel (anger, resentment, fear etc.). In setting an intention for how you would like to experience your day – with more gratitude – aren’t you more likely to have that result than without planting the intention in your mind?
When it comes time for you to next step onto the Yoga mat, the state of mind that you are in, and the focus or your mind’s attention during your Yoga practice, becomes the most powerful tool to create the results you desire. If you are in a ‘bad’ mood and you don’t let go of it when you step onto the mat, but rather continue to ruminate over some conversation, story or aggravation from your day, then the likely story is, you’ll create more of what you had been feeling, even if in blind hope you were sure ‘Yoga’ would make you feel better. If instead you set a ‘Sankalpa’ (Intention), of dedicating your practice selflessly to someone else through compassion, or dedicate the time spent on your mat to feeling gratitude for all that you have and all that you are, then likely things are going to start shifting in a big and positive way.
My teacher and Founder of the Jivamukti Yoga method Sharon Gannon says:
‘Magic is a shift in perception.’ And ‘Yoga is whatever you want it to be. It can be a path to enlightenment or a practice to enhance one’s ego – the outcome depends on the intention of the practitioner.’
Isn’t a lot of our ‘intention setting’, a practice of changing our perspective, or shifting the way we look at things, the way we look at ourselves?
The great sage Patanjali guides us in his ancient Yoga Sutras:
PYS II.33 vitarka-badhane prati-paksa-bhavanam | When disturbed by disturbing thoughts, think of the opposite.
So simple, right? The power of the mind is incredible. It is so incredible that simply by becoming more conscious and directive of our own thoughts, we can create real and tangible shifts in the path of our lives. Be careful of what you are thinking, as it is likely to come true. Be mindful of the thoughts, especially those on repeat, that occur in the mind, as they will shape your life. Remember…
“Watch your thoughts, they become words; watch your words, they become actions; watch your actions, they become habits; watch your habits, they become character; watch your character, for it becomes your destiny.” ~ Upanishads
Happy practicing yogis xx