At the end of yoga class yesterday, my teacher Erikka came up to me and said, “Your practice looks really nice.” Quite a compliment, coming from her, a graceful swanlike woman, I’ve often watched her move seamlessly out of one posture to another, balancing on one foot in warrior three without a care in the world.
Effort without Intention
It reminds me of when I first started my yoga practice. I was anything but. There, in the sweaty confines of the hot room, I was swearing under my breath as I struggled to lift my crooked back up one inch off the floor in cobra. I didn’t know what I didn’t know. I came back to class, day after day because I knew I felt better, but I looked at the postures as difficult mountains to climb, never acknowledged any progress I made and certainly never thought my practice was “good enough.” I muddled through year after year and somehow found the willpower to never give up.
Lately I’ve been talking a lot in these blogs about the body, and particularly our connection to it. I’ve been realizing how frequently we get triggered by something, have that feeling that we’re out of control or overwhelmed, and then move about our day, only half really being in this wonderful bag of skin and bones we call home. We lose touch with the sensation of really “being” in our body, how miraculous that experience is. We become, for lack of a better word, “ungrounded” and float our way through life living almost exclusively in our head, in the neurotic diatribe that is almost always occurring in our monkey-like mind.
The Power of Intentions
So yesterday, I did set an intention in class. For many years I’d roll my eyes when teachers would say that. When I taught yoga, I’d often tell students to do it as well, but I really didn’t grasp what the words meant. I thought it sounded cool and zen like.
My intention was to ground myself in my body during my practice. I’d had a tough week, I’d been triggered many times teaching a new course to a group of participants. My mind was on hyperdrive, “Was I good enough? What kind of feedback am I going to get? Was I too honest and harsh in the group coaching circles? Do the participants think I’m some sort of hack? I should have said this. I should have said that. I’m not sure they got all that much out of the experience. Maybe I upset them. I’m never going to be called back to do any work for this client again!” But I digress…
So my intention was to look at the yoga not just as an interesting challenge, but a tool for connecting my body to my mind and spirit. I focused deeply on my breathing and recall hearing myself breathe in and out. In mountain I reached my arms up to the sky, to salute the sun and felt the sensation of my feet being plugged securely and safely into the ground. I grew taller and taller, every inch of my six foot one frame perfectly straight as the grounding sensation of my feet were propelling me further and further into the sky. In each posture I thought about the movement of my body, where I was placing it, what I was experiencing in the posture, the feelings and sensations in my body as each muscle tightened or relaxed.
As Erikka called out instructions and names of postures I noticed my alignment, Were my feet securely on the ground? Were they centered? If I felt wobbly, I paused and readjusted during the difficult balancing sequence to find a different position. As I felt my body stabilize balancing on one foot I leaned into the experience and embraced it, I marveled at it. I sensed the distinction of being knocked off center and then what it feels like to reach an equilibrium. To feel strong and safe and secure, even perilously balancing on one foot, and recognized fully for the first that that how I looked in the mirror bore no bearing on the experience I was having.
Why intentions matter
When we’re really intentional about why we are doing something, the movement might look exactly the same. The words that come out of our mouths may not differ. But the jewel of the act of setting an intention is in the power of the experience that we have. And it’s the experience that makes all the difference in life.
What things in your life could you make more intentional? Maybe it’s your morning coffee routine or your morning bathroom walk around the block with Snuggles, your pooch. How would that walk change if you set an intention to fully immerse yourself in nature – would you hear the chirp of the birds more soundly? What would you notice? How would that experience set your day up for success?
Shelley Pernot is a leadership and career coach who is passionate about helping her clients discover their strengths and talents and find a career that utilizes them. Reach out to me here for a free consultation to learn more about the coaching process and how it may benefit you!