By Faye Martins and Dr. Paul Jerard, E-RYT 500, YACEP
You are setting an intention before a yoga class to connect your mind and body with your breath. This connection allows you to be present at the moment and focus on your practice. It can also help you let go of any negative thoughts or emotions you may carry with you. When you set an intention, it should be something positive that you want to achieve during your practice. For example, you may want to focus on your breath, or you may want to work on a specific pose. Whatever it is, make sure that it is something you are truly committed to accomplishing.
How Do We Explain Setting an Intention?
Setting an intention in yoga class can be a bit of a mystery to students. Why do we do it? What difference does it make? Here’s how we can explain it to them: When we set an intention for our practice, we are essentially setting a goal. It might be something as simple as wanting to feel more relaxed at the end of class or something more specific, like working on a certain posture. By having a goal in mind, we can direct our attention and energy toward achieving it.
Moving Toward an Objective
In Yoga, the mind and body are connected, so what we focus on while practicing can greatly impact our experience. We’ll feel tenser if we think about how tight our muscles feel. Yet, if we focus on letting go of tension and relaxing into the stretch, we’ll probably have a much more pleasant experience. The same goes for setting an intention: if we keep it in mind throughout our practice, it’s more likely that we’ll achieve it. So next time you teach a class, ask your students to take a few moments to think about what they would like to get out of the class. See if your students can focus their attention on moving toward their objective.
Teachers Set Intentions
We might not say this out loud, but Yoga teachers should always set an intention for their class. This helps to focus the mind and create a clear purpose for the practice. The intention can be simple: wanting students to feel more relaxed and at ease. By setting an intention, the teacher can help guide the class in a particular direction. It’s wise to keep our intentions silent because there is no need to pressure our students. They have enough pressure in life without us sharing any of our expectations.
What are Some Examples for My Students?
There are many possible intentions that they could set in Yoga class. For example, they might intend to focus on their breath and connect with their bodies. Or they might want to let go of any thoughts or worries weighing them down. They could even intend to simply be present at the moment and savor the yoga experience. No matter their intention, setting one can help them get more out of their Yoga practice.
© Copyright – Aura Wellness Center – Publications Division
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Teaching Yoga Students About Setting an Intention
By: Virginia Iversen, M.Ed
How important is it to teach your students about setting an intention? Teaching Yoga to new students can be both enormously satisfying and intimidating. At first, you may feel overwhelmed at introducing the entire system of physical postures, breathing exercises, and relaxation techniques to a group of new students, in addition to the philosophical underpinnings of this time-honored practice! However, simply guiding your students through a balanced Yoga class will help your new students to become familiar with the flow and pacing of the postures and breathing exercises.
Wisdom of Yoga Philosophy
At first, many of your new students will have their hands full simply following your cues and moving in and out of the basic postures, and practicing beginning pranayama exercises. Over time, you can introduce your students to the rich wisdom of Yoga philosophy. When new Yoga students begin to practice with you, they will likely have specific reasons for taking classes with you. For some of your new students, the motivation to practice Yoga may simply be to get into better shape. Other students may be seeking a reduction in their stress levels or to be able to sleep more soundly at night.
Regardless of the initial intention of your brand new students to take Yoga classes with you, it is important to begin each class by setting an intention for the practice. This ancient practice of asanas, breathing exercises, and relaxation techniques is ultimately aimed at helping a practitioner to sit comfortably in a deep state of meditation for an extended period. By facilitating good physical health and a quiet mind, many Yogins found that it was much easier to touch the deep states of Samadhi, allowing them access to the profound beauty of the inner worlds.
Positive State of Mind
Although achieving ever-deepening states of Samadhi may not be one of the initial reasons for your new students to practice Yoga with you, ultimately creating and maintaining a good state of physical health and the ability to approach life in a focused and positive state of mind, is tremendously helpful. To present the potential benefits of a regular yoga practice to your brand new students, setting an intention at the beginning of your class is important. Setting an intention will help your students to the ground and become present for the practice ahead. It will also help to put the practice in the context of the deeply spiritually nourishing tradition from which it arises.
By taking a few moments at the beginning of a Yoga class to set an intention, you will also help your students, both new and experienced alike, to take a moment to check in with themselves to clarify their intentions for practicing Yoga with you on that particular day. Some students may find that their underlying intention is to increase their level of flexibility or to lose those extra five pounds. In contrast, other students may be more concerned with advancing in their asana practice or staying up in a Headstand for three minutes.
Clarifying Your Intention
In either case, taking the time to sit quietly for a few minutes at the beginning of your Yoga class to clarify and set an intention is an important first step for you and your students. As a certified Yoga teacher, personally setting an intention for each class or a series of classes will help you to decide which sequence of postures to teach to your students. In addition, by clarifying your intention for teaching a class to a specific group of students, your classes will become more focused and effective.
Invest Our Time and Energy
When you create space at the beginning of a Yoga class for your students to set an intention for their practice, you also set an example for them to follow during their lives off the mat. So often, many of us spend the better part of our days responding to the ever-increasing insistence of our to-do lists instead of actively deciding how we would live to invest our time and energy to create a specific outcome or accomplish certain goals in our lives. By facilitating the process of pausing for a few moments before actively engaging in a Yoga class to set a specific, clear intention, you will support your students in doing the same in their daily lives off the mat.
© Copyright – Aura Wellness Center – Publications Division
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