The Power Of Intention In Our Yoga Practice

Whatever we offer our attention to we also offer our energy to.


By Jessica Hildebrand, Yoga Instructor at the YMCA of Greater Brandywine

Often in a yoga class, we may hear the teacher suggest that we “set an intention” for our practice. An intention is simply a positive word or phrase for us to direct our attention to and orient our practice towards.

If we choose “joy,” we can welcome an extra sense of enjoyment to our practice. If we choose “strength,” we can welcome additional fortitude and endurance to our movements. Or if we choose “gratitude,” we can welcome a calming feeling of appreciation to our time on the mat.

There are infinite options for the intention we set and welcome into our practice. The theme itself can assist in directing the energy of our practice and in centering our mental activity.

When we practice a balance posture, the teacher may suggest that we find a “driste” or a gazing point. A “driste” is simply an area of focus to center our attention on and assist in maintaining steadiness while balancing. An intention can serve us in a comparable way throughout our practice. Whatever the word or positive sentiment may be that we choose, we can focus our attention on it and reconnect our attention to it when needed. If and when our mind wanders throughout our practice, an intention can act as a hook back to our present moment. An intention enables us to return our attention and our energy back to our practice.

Because of the space created in a yoga practice - particularly during quiet moments, stillness, and breathwork - we may find that our mental activity increases as our physical activity lessens. An intention is a beautiful support tool to assist us through mental distractions and to reconnect us to our physical moment.

If and when we find our mind wandering, we can take a thoughtful breath and return our attention to our intention. Returning to an intention merely means repeating or viewing a phrase in our mind such as, “I am strong,” “I experience joy in this moment,” or simply, “thank we.” And then, if it serves us, repeating it again.
Our time on our mat reminds us that every moment is a chance to begin again.

When our mind gets distracted, when our postures prove challenging, or when we feel there are more important things we could be doing, we breathe. We come back to our moment. We return our attention to our intention. And we start again.

The practice of setting an intention is one that we can welcome to serve us in our everyday life as well. We can always choose a positive word or phrase to welcome into a particular interaction or even to center our day around.

Whatever we offer our attention to we offer our energy too as well. On the mat and off the mat - through the practice of intention - we can thoughtfully choose where we direct our energy. What we energize within and around us. And how we will most authentically be served. Intention aligns us with a positive focus to center our movements, our stillness, and our practice on.


Yoga and mind-body classes at the YMCA of Greater Brandywine are included with the cost of membership. Explore available classes.