Counting the clock….two, three, six more hours left? The minutes move slowly like cars in southbound traffic after five or this gray cloud that is the DMV. Sunlight winks from behind the glass door. That Sun: she can be such a tease… beckoning me with her tantalizing rays! I have seen time bend, fly, and flounder. Weekends zoom past Kyle and I at the speed of light. Contrarily, I have watched minutes multiply akin to how insects must breed. I am painfully aware of every bleach -drunk -second I spend cleaning my bathroom. I know the laws of time dictate what constitutes a minute: a second: a nanosecond. But stick me in a yoga room for an hour and I will swear to you that 60 minutes did not pass? Where did the time go? Did my pigeon pose sweep in and fly away with the extra 5 minutes I promised him? Lies of the temporal terrain!
What is your intention?
What caught your attention?
What do you intend to do, right here? Right now?
When you are short on time, what do YOU prioritize? Yes, the breath is the most important part of the practice. You need to breathe in a way that supports you…ideally with “ujjayi” or victorious breath. Now, we enter the allergy season/cold/season. You have allowance to breathe through your mouth, especially if you fear the “loogies.” By the time I brief the breath, it is really time to move on if we stick to our clockwork chartering. But, I like students to flavor their adventures. This is the role of “setting an intention.” When I blurt “set an intention” and then move you instantaneously into cat cows….I am preventing myself from babbling into your precious 60 minute class. So here, I confess what I really want to say.
I will extrapolate that setting an intention is not some new- age- mumbo jumbo. In my Mysore, personal practice, I set my intention via singing the classical opening invocation. Thank you Aharona for bringing this back into my life! Singing or chanting opening prayer resonates with my spiritual background and me. However, practicing yoga itself is not a “religious practice” (more on that next week). I interpret this invocation as an opportunity to thank all of the wonderful teachers in my life both living and deceased. I thank the teachers who I have never met and the ones whom I will never meet. I thank the ground beneath me for enabling me to practice with the healthy body. I ask of myself to be patient and loving towards my body and to wade only shallowly in the looming pool of thoughts.
Vande Gurunam Charanaravinde
Sandarshita Svatma Sukava Bodhe
Nih Sreyase Jangalikayamane
Samsara Halahala Mohashantyai
|I bow to the lotus feet of the Supreme Gurus
which awaken insight into the happiness of pure Being,
which are the refuge, the jungle physician,
which eliminate the delusion caused by the poisonous herb of Samsara.
Sahasra Sirasam Svetam
|I prostrate before the sage Patanjali
who has thousands of radiant, white heads and who has, as far as
his arms, assumed the form of a man
holding a conch shell, a wheel and a sword.
In Forrest Yoga, Ana stipulates the importance of setting an intention no matter how long or how short your class is. She bequests of the teacher to set an open-ended intention for the practice. For example, pick an area in your body that is in pain. What does it feel like? What color can you give it….Subsequently, this selected objective serves as the silver thread for class planning…inspiring not just physical postures and breath-work but also deep energy healing for the practitioner. Although the teacher sets the intention for the group, each individual has a uniquely profound experience.
I adore this concept so much, because it unifies the entire “yoga” experience for the student. So easily, we unroll the mat, sputter some breath, and start flailing limbs around. The teacher says, “ Breathe and relax your neck!” And I think, “bitch get me out of fucking chair pose!” Now, if I had set a proper intention instead of drooling in initial child’s pose or fantasizing about breakfast (always!) my physical and psychological experience might be a little more up lifting?
Because people lack self-care time and solitude, I encourage students to set their own intentions. Maybe today you want to offer gratitude to your teachers and the elements because you want to feel supported, grounded, and worthy of the love you deserve. You don’t deserve to feel lonely. Often there is someone in your life who is hurting, and you have no idea how to help. So you dedicate your practice to them. Maybe you lost your temper, or you snapped at someone you love. There is self-shame and dwelling. Can you bring the love back to yourself and practice the challenging postures with compassion. Finally, perhaps today you feel unspeakable pain or anguish. Getting on the mat is feat enough. Today set an intention to find pleasure… experience your hips open in warrior 2. Your heart shines forward in upward dog. In your final happy baby, you enjoy the lower back release.
I don’t have much time to babble about intention setting during the beginning of class. But, perhaps this is most important part of your practice (aside from savasana, of course). Who are you? Where are you coming from today? What would you like to create or manifest today? Then the breath, the postures, and your celestial nature unify yoked by your humble intention.
In the words of Larry Schultz: “turn in to ‘channel you.’ You are one with yourself. One with the others. And one with your maker…”