Yoga & Intention

April 25th, 2013

Create an intention, and initiate your practice!

The first step of a DHARMI Yoga practice is to establish a clear intention. This gives us the opportunity to bring awareness to any obstacles surrounding our intentions, such as core beliefs, fears, or attachments that we hold in our mind, or our emotional, energetic, or physical body.

For this first step, sit comfortably in Lotus, Half Lotus, or simply with the legs crossed. If you have knee pain or tight hips, you can place blocks under your knees. Sit on a blanket or bolster, making sure that your hips are slightly raised, which will release any pressure on your sciatic nerve. If you have serious hip or knee issues, you can sit up on a stack of blocks, or on a bolster, and take a kneeling position, with blankets under and behind your knees.

Sit with your spine long and aligned. It is best not to use any external support. Rather, your internal strength builds a healthy alignment. Rest both hands on your thighs. You can join the index finger and thumb of each hand in a mudra (yoga of the hands), to activate and support the alignment between your personal dharma with the universal dharma. Place your right hand in jnana mudra (the palm of your hand facing up, index and thumb together), and your left hand in a chin mudra (the palm of your hand facing down, index and thumb together).

Now that you have found a comfortable seated posture, focus your attention on your breath. Bring your awareness to your breath, as it is at this present moment. Notice whether it is shallow, deep, long, slow, or short. Observe without judgment. This is a moment of reconnection to where you are in the here and now. Rather than forcing the breath, find your breath were it is, and invite it with consciousness into a deep, connected space. With acceptance and compassion of what is at this moment, your breath will naturally begin to expand.

I have noticed that forcing breath into a specific rhythm, without considering where I am coming from, creates stress on top of stress. This separates me from myself, creating a gap. Instead, I link from and to where I am, so that I can enter and benefit fully from pranayama. Entering pranayama takes time, expansion, and dedication, much like moving into an asana (yoga postures). If we force our bodies into asana, we can injure ligaments, tendons or muscles. If we force pranayama, we can affect our emotions and nervous system.

Once you are deeply connected to your breath, you can begin to bring awareness to the rhythm of your heart and the pulse of life within you. It may take some time to establish this connection, to feel the warmth in the chest, and the flow of rhythm in your body.

Observe your state of mind. Do you notice any thoughts that inhibit connection to a harmonious breath and to the warmth of your heart? Accept it, and forgive the thought, then bring your attention back to a nurturing, harmonious state of being. Where your attention goes, your power goes. You can choose to accept what is happening in your mind, rather than resisting, fighting against or denying it. Through acceptance, gratitude and forgiveness, you can transcend and surrender!

Now observe whether there is any physical pain, tension, or resistance in any area of your body. As you raise your awareness, try to remain as comfortable as possible. Do not force into pain, or retreat from it. Allow yourself to be at its edge, in a space where you can still breathe and be conscious of its physical manifestation. You can direct your attention to any areas of pain, with acceptance and compassion. Guide your breath there and become aware of any healing sensations.

When you find this space of connectedness, access the heart center and from there, begin to clarify your intention for your practice. The connection to the heart is key; if your intention is a response or counteraction to a negative thought or state of being, you may focus on a reactive, karmic state, rather than a dharmic, healthy, unconditional space.

Don’t think of your intention as a goal that must be met—allow it to be more open-ended. Your intention might be peace, inner strength, flexibility, love, integrity, oneness, expansion, and so on. Once you clarify you intention, choose a word to represent it, a word whose  vibration resonates harmoniously with your heart center, breath, and sense of self-nuturing. If your intention doesn’t yet resonate in this way, then it is not yet aligned with You. Take a few minutes to clarify and feel it.

Once your intention is clear, join your hands at your heart and chant AUM 7 times, to access to the seven dimensions: mind, emotional, energetic, physical, astral, fundamental, and soul/spirit.  Feel the resonance of each AUM, focusing on and clearing each dimension. After you have completed this cycle, take a few breaths in silence, integrating any sensations. You can then open your eyes, looking out from the space within your heart.

Christelle Chopard