Forget New Year’s Resolutions—Start the Year With a New Intention
January 4, 2016
“Watch your thoughts, for they become words.
Watch your words, for they become actions.
Watch your actions, for they become habits.
Watch your habits, for they become character.
Watch your character, for it becomes your destiny.”
Have you ever felt “stuck” in a yoga class, like you just can’t change a negative relationship with one pose or that you will never “get better?” Or are you stagnating in a section of your life off your mat, such as your job or a particular relationship?
Like ruts in a road, we can get easily stuck in thought patterns and the actions/reactions these thought patterns create. Changing what you think about can alter your perspective in a situation and alleviate tension or reveal the breakthrough you have been waiting for. Setting an intention during your yoga class is a powerful tool for transformation in your yoga practice and life.
What does it mean to set an intention? The verb, to intend, “is to set a course of action or destine for a particular purpose or end” (Websters’). The origin of the word in Middle English was entend, translating as “direct the attention to.” Cognitive science explains that the mind, our thoughts are very habitual, so if your thoughts are predominantly judgemental, negative, blaming, full of worry and shaming— so the course of daily life may follow.
Setting an intention can have similar effects to cognitive behavioral therapy, by breaking up stagnant or negative thought patterns, and replacing them with desired thought patterns. Positive Psychology, a field that originated in 1998, gathers empirical data for that which yogis have been utilizing for thousands of years confirms that we become happier when we choose to think about that which we are happy about or grateful for. And rather than setting a New Years resolution— which can be grasping outside of yourself for what you do not have—this helps focus your attention on what you can already be grateful for.
How to set an intention: A short meditation
Start by writing or thinking about how you are feeling right now (without judgment, just notice). What feeling, quality or positive sensation do you want to reinforce in your life today? Describe this feeling that you want to cultivate in a few sentences.
To set an intention is to pick a word or phrase that you will focus on for the duration of your practice. An affirmation is one of the most accessible intentions, it can generate acceptance, encouragement and emotional support. Affirmations can be simple phrases, such “I am healthy, “ “I am enough,” “I am compassionate.”
You could also pick a Sanskrit phrase like “sat nam,” which translates as I am enough. Can you distil your sentences into one word or short phrase? During your next yoga session focus your attention on this phrase or word during each pose. Afterward, notice how you are feeling and journal about the experience.