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Why We Set Intentions at the Beginning of Our Yoga Practice

You walk into the yoga room, you roll out your yoga mat and begin preparing yourself for your yoga practice. The yoga teacher walks in and begins the class by first asking students to close their eyes and set an intention for their practice.

This is a common occurrence. Many yoga teachers invite students to do this at the beginning of the class. Why do teachers do this? What is an intention, and what’s the benefit of using one each time you step onto the mat?

Intentions are desires that we set in motion with the thoughts we think, the words we speak, and the actions we take.

These are common questions many yoga students wonder, especially those newer to the practice. At first, you may think they aren’t necessary for a successful session on the mat. Or maybe you feel like you’re not ‘advanced’ in your practice enough to use intentions.

Or perhaps you just don’t quite know what an intention is, how to choose one, and how it can impact your yoga practice… Read on and we’ll explain what an intention is and the benefit to setting one every time you step onto your mat.


What is an Intention?

Intentions are desires we set into motion with the thoughts we think, the words we speak, and the actions we take. An intention can be defined as a plan, purpose, or desire for a particular end.

We all have intentions all the time! We wake up, and we have the plan of getting out of bed. We go to work with the purpose of doing our job and making money. We even say things like I had the best intentions in mind, or don’t trust them because they’re ill-intentioned.

Intentions set powerful actions into motion and impact all aspects of our lives and those around us.

We begin to recognize how ourselves and others are constantly acting from a place of intention, whether it’s positive or negative, conscious or unconscious. Regardless of these factors, they set powerful actions into motion and impact all aspects of our lives and those around us.

Intentions can be simple, but can also carry serious power. The next level is consciously setting an intention in your life. Setting an intention to be more compassionate with yourself, or to spend more time with loved ones. This brings us to setting one for your yoga practice…

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What is an Intention in Yoga?

In yoga, we set intentions for our practice. Typically, we do this at the very start of class before we begin moving into physical poses. Setting one for your yoga practice is meant to help you get the most out of your time on the mat.

Whatever your intention is, it’s meant to help guide you throughout your yoga practice.

Just like your yoga practice as a whole, setting an intention is a very personal practice. You look within and determine what you need most that day. Perhaps you’re simply needing to cultivate more peace, focus on acceptance, or let go of fear. Maybe it’s a much more simple and tangible intention, like focusing on your conscious breathing, or not being distracted by other yogis in class.

Your intention for your yoga practice can be whatever you feel you need it to be. Whatever it is, it’s meant to help guide you throughout your yoga practice. Setting one helps you concentrate and stay focused, and also motivates and inspires you by giving you a positive purpose for your time on the mat.

How to Set an Intention For Your Yoga Practice

Your time on the mat is your opportunity to get quiet, centered and aware. Use that time to decide what it is you need most of your practice that day – peace, stress relief, focus, strength, empowerment, acceptance . . . obviously, the possibilities are endless, and it’s up to you to determine the guidepost that best serves you in that moment.

Intentions show you that you are in control of your thoughts, your experiences, and your reality.

Once you’ve decided on your intention, take it with you throughout class. Repeat it silently to yourself as you move through the poses. Find times to remind yourself of your intention (for example, every time you do a Chaturanga, or with every inhale) throughout your time on the mat.

Often your yoga teacher will remind you to revisit it throughout class. Sometimes, the teacher will even set a collective one with the students before you begin class. Whether you use the teacher’s intention, or set one of your own, yoga is your time to truly reflect on it, what it means, and how it can impact your practice, as well as your life off the mat.

The Power of Sankalpa: Here’s Everything You Need to Know About Setting Intentions in Yoga

The Takeaway

Setting an intention is simple yet incredibly powerful. They help focus the mind, calm the body, link mind and body, and guide you through an empowered yoga practice. They are an important tool to help you maximize your time on the mat and set powerful plans in motion.

Yogis often come away from their practice feeling confident, empowered, and capable of anything they set their mind to. Intentions help you feel this way, and also help show you that you are in control of your thoughts, your experiences, and your reality.

The next time you step onto the mat, take a moment to set an intention, and then watch how that it guides you, motivates you, and inspires you. You’ll be amazed how much you can gain from incorporating an intention into your yoga practice. Namaste!

10 Mantras to Set a Powerful Intention for Your Yoga Practice

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Ashton August

Ashton is the founder and Content Director of and YA Classes (we plant a food-producing tree for every class a member completes!). As a motivational author and speaker, distinguished yoga instructor and wellness entrepreneur, she believes that cultivating empowering self-talk and a healthy mindset opens the door to living an abundantly fulfilling life! Ashton lives in sunny Tucson, Arizona with her husband and their two rescue dogs.

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