Taking a yoga class without an intention is much like getting into a car without having a destination. Instead of reaching the destination by the end of the journey, you may end exactly where you started. At the beginning of the class a teacher may plant a seed of intention or offer that you set your own personal intention for the class. Much in the way of a topical meditation or concept meant to root you in the now and give a focus for mental work; intentions are not long term goals like achieving a particular pose or losing weight. Instead they might deal with anger, dharana (concentration) or letting go. These are clear and simple concepts which you can immediately relate to and apply to body, breath or mind.
Once the seed is planted allow it to grow. Admittedly, this becomes slightly easier once physical asanas (poses) do not occupy all of your thoughts while practicing. It is essential even at the novice level and especially when maintaing a home practice that an intention be established.
So how do you grow the seeds once they are planted? By bringing the intention back from time to time. When you find your self in down dog during class this is a great time to revisit your intention. These continued revisits or stops along the journey should help you to find a deeper root to the present and sometimes allow you to let go of mental baggage or resolve a conflict that may have been deep inside of you. Meditation can be challenging sometimes; intention in a flowing class is much like a moving meditation allowing you to pick it up and put it down. This is often why so many yogis & yoginis flock to physical styles of Yoga. It becomes much easier to focus on the physical right here and right now. The body speaks to you, and if you aren’t listening, it will yell at you. Intentions allow us to listen to the body, breath and mind with enhanced hearing.
As I begin my journey blogging I set my intention to focus on Tapas (not the Spanish food).
Tapas in Yoga denotes self discipline; committing to oneself and then working to maintain that commitment.
The easiest way to look at this yogic concept is to look at your own practice. Is it daily? Consistent? Something you look forward to? When you approach your mat are you energetic or expectant? Believe it or not if you are able to simply step on your mat each day it is very unlikely that you will feel compelled to skip the practice entirely.
So my Tapas will begin to incorporate more than my daily practice and teachings. I now work towards a commitment to myself to write daily, explore topical meditation in writing and to share these thoughts with you.