One of more powerful aspects of a yoga practice is the setting of an intention - a concept know as Sankalpa in the Sanskrit. This is where one imagines embodying a desired character trait, a virtue, or some other form of positive growth. This can often be accompanied by affirming the intention repeatedly in the mind as if it is true in the present moment. For example, if I had a desire to cultivate honesty in my life, I could take a few moments before and/or after my practice to imagine being honest with myself and others in various circumstances and affirm myself as an honest person by taking a few breaths with the mantra "I am (on the inhale) honest or truthful (on the exhale). Or "I think the truth (on the inhale); I speak the truth (on the exhale). The idea is to plant a seed of thought in confidence that it will grow and bear fruit in life.
This idea is not unique to yoga. King Solomon from the Old Testament succinctly captured the concept when he wrote, "as he thinketh in his heart, so is he." Apostle Paul in the New Testament reminded us, "whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report, if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things." And in the Dhammapada, the Buddha told us just how much of an asset a mind immersed in good thoughts can be: "Not a mother, nor a father, nor any other relative, can do more for the well-being of one than a rightly-directed mind can." Many others have also creatively captured this idea into word over the years. The French philosopher Montaigne put it this way, "the conduct of our lives is the true reflection of our thoughts" This is great and all, but how and when do we change our thoughts toward more noble ideals?
This is where the physical practice of yoga comes in - the gardening if you will. When you come to your mat, you breathe consciously and move consciously. These in tandem can usher us away from the the stresses of the world, slowly calm our mind, and invite us to just be and experience the present moment. After a series of postures, your body becomes less restless and better suited for sitting or reclining in stillness and silence. Subsequently, this is when the soil of your body and mind is most fertile for receiving your seeds of intention should you wish to plant one. Since this window of opportunity is fleeting and scarce, but at the same time potentially transformative and valuable, do make sure your intentions are noble and of the highest quality!
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