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Creating Intention in Your Yoga Practice

by Jo Wilkie

In many Yoga classes, teachers will ask students to create an intention for their practice that day. An intention of less stress, understanding, health, healing, peace of mind… whatever is needed, in the hope that through the practice of Yoga, the student might find the intended quality bubbling up through the breath, the movement, and the mindful attention of formal practice. By keeping an intention, or aspiration, active in the mind and present in the heart, things begin to change.

Most of my suffering is created special, just for me, by my mind. As I was preparing myself for a life of compassion, it became really, annoyingly, clear that a lot of reason there is a lack of harmony in my family is my, ahem, er, well… tendencies toward control. That might be putting it mildly. It appears that I believe that Erick should think and act exactly as I expect him to think and act. Especially when I am eating a lot of sugar, or not getting enough sleep, or when there are lots of stressful things happening, I like for Mark to mirror me. Exactly. And damn it. He never gets it right.

Now this, Yoginis, is a set up for pain.

This desire for Mark to be who I think he “should” be stems, I think, from fear and feeling off-balance. It might reflect my feeling of not being in my element. There are probably other things this desire to control is indicative of, but, no matter. The antidote is available, even if I don’t know all the reasons I Mark to eat with his left hand instead of his right…

And it begins with an intention. My intention to know Mark & our daughter as they are and not as I think they should be. My intention to develop a gentler and happier relationship with myself. My intention to soften, to open my heart, moment by moment, to what is in front of me, without the smog of fear clouding my vision. My intention allow clarity to guide my response.

Intention is not just for Yoga classes, intention can shape our lives. I challenge you as the New Year begins to choose one of your own favorite methods of creating suffering (we all have them) and decide how you want it to be different. Create an intention and write it down, post it where you can see it, read it often. Meditate on it when you are cooking dinner, breath into it when you are taking a shower, bow to it when you recognize you are suffering yet again. Laugh, and reconnect with your intention.

It doesn’t have to be difficult, nor does it require adding another bullet to your to-do list. In fact, everyday life, with it’s diaper changes, telephone repairmen, bad traffic and cranky family members is where all the good stuff happens when you are working with an intention. Don’t save it for the Yoga mat.

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