A few years ago, I made my final New Year's resolution: No more boring clothes. Ever since then, my wardrobe has become increasingly colorful and diverse, and I don't beat myself up about it.
Over the past few years, I've been exploring the concept of setting intentions. As a yoga teacher, I set an intention for each of my classes. This becomes the focus of the class, and as we move through the asanas that intention gets imprinted in our muscles so that it is easier to recall later and integrate into our daily routines.
For example, if the intention of one of my classes is to display more compassion towards ourselves, we might call our attention to that intention during a challenging pose as a reminder to soften in the pose and not overexert ourselves. Repeatedly bringing our awareness to the intention during the class lays the groundwork for remembering to be kinder to ourselves after we leave class.
By definition, a resolution is a firm decision to do or not do something while an intention is an aim or a plan. Even the language of intention is more positive. Resolutions usually involve cutting something out of your life and holding yourself accountable with harsh consequences.
Intentions are more like road maps. They are flexible and allow for evolution. Intentions can exist simultaneously with other intentions, or they can stand alone. The bottom line is that intentions help you move toward your goals in a positive way.
Here are 3 tips for setting intentions:
Enjoy the process. Choose an intention that you will enjoy doing. Intentions are supposed to make us feel better and ultimately become better versions of ourselves. Is this an intention that will make you want to do it every day/week/month/year?
Listen to the body. We all know what it feels like when something doesn't sit well with us: tightness in the belly, shortness of breath, a pull in the shoulders. When we choose an intention that is right for us, we will feel just the opposite: relaxed body, slow and even breaths, a sense of peace. The body is wise. Listen. If an intention doesn't feel right, choose another intention.
I once received a fortune from a fortune cookie that read "Choose another fortune cookie." Well played, fortune cookie Zen Master. Well played, indeed.
Track your progress. Journal about your intention and the progress you make. It doesn't have to be fancy, just quickly record when you've applied your intention and how you felt about it in that moment. At the end of a week, note any changes in behavior or thought patterns that could be a result of your intention. Then either continue with your intention or allow it to evolve into something else.
Still not sure about where to begin? Here are a few suggestions for intentions:
- I intend to take 3 deep breaths before I get out of bed each morning.
- I intend to make someone smile each day.
- I intend to make time for myself, even if it's just 5 minutes each day.
- I intend to read a book for fun for 30 minutes each day.
- I intend to practice 1 yoga pose every day for a week and then move on to another pose.
- I intend to notice when my mind begins to play stories of worry or regret and I will take a deep breath to remember that those stories are not real.
- I will be mindful when I eat.
- I will ask for what I want and need.
- I will set my alarm to wake me 15 minutes earlier each day so I can have some quiet time to myself.
- I will create, borrow, or barter whenever I can to avoid buying anything new.
There's no right or wrong way to set intentions or to follow through with them. The point is to find something to focus on that will move you toward your life goals. If your ultimate goal is to be happier, then I suggest starting with small additions to your routine that are enjoyable and letting them grow over time.
I recently led a yoga workshop on setting intentions for the new year. It took place on the first full moon of the new year, rather than New Year's Day in order to reinforce the idea that you can begin any time. There's no deadline or due date.
[caption id="attachment_31" align="alignright" width="300"] Creating the space for setting intentions.[/caption]We began the workshop by setting our own individual intentions for our yoga practice. I then led a yin yoga session that asked us to stay, breathe, and observe throughout a series of poses that were held for 3 minutes each. As we held the poses, we were reminded to return our attention to our intentions and to the breath. Everyone left with their intentions written down so they could refer to them when they got home.
The best part about setting intentions is that there is no time like the present to begin. You don't have to wait until Monday or until the next Full Moon, or even until the end of the year. Start now. Start small. Just start.
For more information, visit www.wiseowlwellnessaz.com.