Why We Believe in Setting Intentions Before Yoga and Pilates

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- Jason H, Old Greenwich

Aside from helping you improve flexibility, relieve pain, and have a healthier heart, yoga has amazing benefits for your mental and psychological wellbeing.

In fact, yoga practice can lead to a decrease in anxiety and depression after just a few months.

However, setting intentions when practicing yoga is one of the most important things you can do for yourself. Ready to learn how to set intentions and why they can be so great for you? Keep reading!

All Levels Are Welcome

First and foremost, yoga practice is for everyone. With the amazing results of yoga practice at your fingertips, no one should feel that they aren’t good enough to step onto the mat. Setting intentions helps you compare yourself to you instead of comparing yourself to anyone else. And that means you can find success at any level of practice. That’s because you get to decide what success looks like for you. You’re in charge.

No matter what your practice looks like, you can benefit if you set intentions. That’s because setting the intention that you will benefit from the practice tells your body to do what it can without overdoing it.

Intentions Get Your Mind Focused on the Right Things

Much like other things we do during our everyday lives, yoga practice has a lot to do with the mind. Let’s get nerdy and talk about your Reticular

diagram of the reticular activating system

Reticular Formation – credit: integratedlistening.com

Activating System for a minute, or the RAS (pronounced RAZ). It’s a literal part of your body just above your spinal cord where most of your sense are processed. And it connects the conscious part of our brain with the unconscious part of our brain.

The RAS is responsible for taking an intention we have that we state, and it connects that intention to the subconscious part of our brain. When we state an intention for ourselves, the RAS starts looking for that intention to show up in our lives.

An example often quoted by Behavioral Expert Chase Hughes is when we decide to buy a car. And we have a particular car in mind. And then we start to see it everywhere. The car doesn’t become more popular. It’s just our minds are attuned to finding that car and noticing when it’s around.

The same thing happens with setting intentions for your yoga practice. You’re actually priming your RAS to make you aware of the success you want, when it starts to show up in your life.

Be Kind to Yourself

We often talk about treating yourself like your best friend would treat you. So, if you have a goal when it comes to your practice, and you don’t reach it right away, be kind. You can be your own cheerleader, or you can beat yourself up. We find you’r more likely to reach your goals if you’re cheering yourself on. And that’s why we suggest setting achievable goals.

Read here about how being kind to yourself can help keep your practice consistent.

Achievable Goals Lead to Big Outcomes

Yoga is not something that you perfect overnight or really ever. It’s always a journey. Setting intentions is also not something that you can learn overnight. Setting intentions and practicing yoga gets easier with time.

Setting smaller attainable goals helps you make significant improvements over time with consistent practice. And positive self-talk gives you an extra boost. BUT Dr. Andrew Huberman, neuroscientist at Stanford University shares it ONLY works IF it’s

a. something you can really believe AND

b. it’s something that is likely to become reality quickly.

In other words, state a small believable win that is highly likely to happen and will be in the direction of your ultimate goal.

You could begin with stating your intention to consistently step foot on the mat this week. “I intend to practice yoga 2 times this week.” And then showing up is your win. That’s believable and achievable in a short time period. Your intention can also be a value statement vs a checklist item. Think, “I intend to enjoy every minute of this practice and release all my stress so I have the energy to be fully present with my family at dinner tonight.”

Before you know it, your family will encourage you to get to practice each week. Because you consistency show up for them better when you get home. We’ve really had members tell us stories just like this!

You Dictate the Practice

Although an instructor may be guiding you, no one is more important than you. You dictate the practice. You decide what you want to get out of the practice.

This could be a meditation for the day. You could want to sweat and get a bit of a workout in through the yoga practice. Or you simply want to go with the flow.

Whatever you feel, that’s what you should follow. If there is a movement that you don’t feel is right, modify it and try something else. As a matter of fact, our teachers will give you modifications you can use.

Approach Is Everything

As we’ve mentioned above, how you approach your practice means everything. It dictates your mindset, your ability to reach your goals, how your day goes, and how you feel.

If you believe you can do it, you can. If you feel that you aren’t going to have a great practice, you probably won’t. This is the power of your mind — the way you want to approach your practice.

You may have heard of the placebo effect in medicine. And it usually has a negative connotation. A placebo is used in medical trials to show us if the medicine heals our ailments or if the thought of a medicine heals us. Someone receives a fake medicine, and they still show health improvements.

But we think the placebo effect emphasizes the power of the mind. If you believe you’re participating in or receiving something that will heal you, it will have a beneficial outcome for you. However, if you believe something will harm you, it’s more likely to have harmful outcomes. That’s what scientists call the “nocebo effect.” They discovered the nocebo effect when studying the effects of describing possible side effects of medications.

Again, this shows us just how much influence our minds have on the outcomes we experience. Setting intentions reminds you that your yoga and pilates practice will benefit you. You have to believe it will be beneficial. Focusing on the negative might take away from your results, but focusing on the positive will help you get better results.

Focus on the Outcome

What is it that you want to get out of your yoga practice? Is it to be more at peace with yourself, have less anxiety, be in better shape?

Whatever it is, you want to focus on the outcome to get the desired result. This has to do with visualizing your future and what you want it to be. If you want to be more mindful of your everyday surroundings, focus on the mindfulness aspect of yoga.

If your outcome is to be in great shape, focus on working every muscle in your body. That’s when you’ll notice how toned you are getting.

Before you know it, the results of your yoga practice will hit you in your face. You’ll realize you’ve achieved the outcome you wanted.

That’s when you set new intentions.

Setting Intentions for Yoga Practice

Yoga practice is great for your physical, mental, and psychological wellbeing. However, setting intentions for the mat maximizes the beneficial effects of your practice.

If you’re ready to start setting intentions and practicing yoga more regularly, check out our hot yoga and pilates classes. If you’re ready to sweat, join us in a class by checking out our class schedule. 

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