This is a time of year where we all have forward motion on the mind. We are thinking of all the ways we can do and be better in the coming year and that is such a beautiful thing. I fully believe that we should never stop growing or moving or pushing ourselves.
In yoga we see this practice through the Niyamas, moral codes or social contracts which guide us towards positive behaviour – especially towards ourselves.
The 4th of the 5 Niyamas is Svadhyaya. The term svadhyaya literally means ‘one’s own reading’ or ‘self-study’. The word itself is made up of Sva, meaning own, self, or the human soul, and Adhyaya, meaning lesson, lecture, or reading, and can imply the practice of studying scriptures, as well as a practice of studying the Self.
Patanjali’s Yoga Sutra says: “Study thy self, discover the divine” II.44
When you pair that with the 3rd Niyama, Tapas, I think it perfectly embodies the spirit of the New Year. Tapas often translates traditionally as ‘austerity’ or ‘discipline’. The word Tapas is derived from the root Sanskrit verb Tap which means ‘to burn’, and evokes a sense of ‘fiery discipline’ or ‘passion’.
In this sense, Tapas can mean cultivating a sense of self-discipline, passion and courage in order to burn away ‘impurities’ physically, mentally and emotionally, and paving the way to our true greatness.
Tapas doesn’t have to mean being solemn and serious though, this fieriness is what gets our heart pumping and heightens our desire for personal growth.
I don’t really like the word resolution. It seems so strict and stagnant; like its setting you up for failure. It is, well, resolute. There is no room to change.
I like to wiggle.
So that being said, I connect with the world intention more.
I intend to make certain changes, or move forward, or deepen my roots, or learn to fly. I intend too. There is room to grow, to change, to fail and try and fail and try and fail and try again. There is room to breath.
Intentions can be big or little, abstract or concrete, personal or universal. You can set them for your mediation, your physical practice, or even your day, month, or year.
I’ve noticed that I tend to have a larger intention, or Sankulpa, that I hold on to for several weeks or months. It is usually a feeling or energy I am trying to create more of in my life such as abundance, celebration, cleansing or letting go, courage, etc.
Then I set smaller or more specific ones for meditations or practices. These typically are about answering a specific question, working towards my bigger objective, or simply whatever I feel most drawn too in that moment such as to nurture, create space, push myself, be present, etc.
If you are drawn to the idea of setting an intention for your coming year or season, have always been a little confused or overwhelmed when asked to set an intention in class, or simply just want to give it a try; here is a simple way to get started.
**First, find stillness and comfort in your body. Notice your breath, in through the nose and out through the nose. Slow Down.
**Begin to find clarity and space in your mind by letting go of any nagging thoughts or feelings you are holding on to. Do your best to bring your awareness to the present moment and then start to draw your attention inward.
**Start to notice what thoughts or feelings keep re-occurring and maybe ask yourself what quality or virtue you want to create or discover within yourself.
Perhaps you want to invite more compassion, kindness, gratitude, grace, forgiveness or love into your life. Or maybe you want to be more present or mindful, or become better at letting go. Perhaps you’d like to cultivate balance and peace or health and wellness. Your intention can be anything that brings your soul peace, happiness, and joy.
A Sankulpa can be broad or specific and of course you can have more than one at a time, just don’t set so many that you become overwhelmed or distracted.
**When wording your intention, keep it positive and present tense. The things you are looking for are already a part of you, we are simply using this practice to draw them forward or expand their energy.
Instead of saying “I will not stress myself out today,” you can focus on the mantra, “I am at peace.”
Here are some more examples of positively worded intentions:
“I am compassionate and kind.”
“I forgive myself and others.”
“I am balanced in mind and body.”
“I have an open heart.”
**Once you have come to a decision, you can meditate, journal, chant, or repeat your mantra with your breath during your physical practice and simply see what emerges. I also like to take a few moments right when I wake up and right before I go to bed to tune in to my intention, to really notice how it feels inside of me and if there is anything I need to modify or adjust.
**Allow yourself to find little ways on and off your mat to work towards that intention. Through out your day, where can you find space to create more peace, put yourself first, face a fear, or offer more love? Be open to any opportunity that allows you embody that intention and start to notice how more and more chances begin finding their way to you.
**Finally, remember that this practice is fluid. Your life and your heart will feel differently from moment to moment and struggling or adjusting doesn’t mean failure at all. So take it easy on yourself and let this be a way to honor not only where you are going, but where you are right now.
What are some intentions you are drawn too for the new year?
Which ones do you find yourself coming back to again and again?
Leave me a comment, or shoot me a message. I’d love to hear about all the good that will be developed in the year to come!
3 thoughts on “Intention Setting 101”
I loved this article. I didn’t really know what instructors meant by intention setting. This sounds like a better mind set than resolutions. Thanks for explaining!