How you can set an intention for your yoga practice

Pilgrimage of the Heart Yoga > Yoga > How you can set an intention for your yoga practice

What does setting an intention mean?

You may have heard your yoga instructor invite you to “set an intention” at the beginning of class. Setting an intention isn’t an ancient practice. It’s not one of the 8 limbs of yoga. You won’t find it in the Bhagavad Gita. So why does your teacher mention this in class? What does it mean to set an intention?

Set Out Into Life with an Intention

Setting an intention is a reminder that what you do for an hour on the mat is preparing you for the 23 other hours of the day when you’re off the mat. Most of the day you are dealing with life – work, school, relationships, money, traffic, parking, the list is endless. When you head out into your life without an intention, things can get fraught with difficulties.

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If you set out into life with an intention, such as: peace, love, acceptance, or patience, the incidences of your day are seen through a sort of intention filter. Like a pair of sunglasses that you put on and it changes the way you see things. If you can’t find parking and you’re running 5 minutes late for an appointment, the whole situation looks and feels differently if you have the intention of acceptance and patience.

Other People’s Experience

 Other people’s experience of you will be colored by your intention as well. Rather than being stressed and angry after arriving 5 minutes late, your intention has you focused and calm. Nothing has changed, life didn’t suddenly get easier, but your intention allows you to cruise through the big and small battlefields of life with less resistance and more ease.

Begin Your Day with an Intention

Try setting an intention at the beginning of your next yoga practice. Something that you would like to cultivate more of in your life off the mat. As you breath in, image that you can draw into your lungs and body the essential qualities needed to create that intention in your life. As you exhale, breath those qualities out into the room, the people around you, into your city and ultimately into the world.

What intention are you setting for your life while on the mat? How is it changing your life off the mat? Let me know in a comment below. 


  1. Jude Finnish on August 8, 2014 at 11:49 am

    Hmmm… I’ve at times had difficulty setting an intention. I liked how you compared it to a pair of sunglasses, that creates an image that’s easy to understand. I will try to put on my optimistic sunglasses today and see if that intention helps me with the day-to-day.

  2. Cynthia Rhoades on August 26, 2014 at 12:35 pm

    thanks for this article. I like to start each day with a simple intention of gratitude. I heard that people who write down 5 positive things in their lives in a journal live longer and happier lives. I don’t always write it down, but I make sure to think it every morning. It really works! Somedays, I think, this day is going to be really crappy, but I try to remmber all the good things, and it usually ends up being a pretty good day 🙂

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