I had a physical asana practice for over 15 years before I actually understood the role of intention in yoga. I recall instructors in New York City in the early 1990’s asking us to “dedicate our practice to someone.” Gradually things changed and we were asked to “call to mind our intention” at the beginning of classes. I don’t recall anyone explaining the concept, and it was never mentioned in my teacher training. So I was forced to find my own interpretation. Having been raised Catholic, I came to view it as the yoga equivalent of lighting a candle for a loved one. Although I had experience with other manifestation tools such as vision boarding, I never connected the concepts until my Nidra teacher training.
What is Nidra?
Nidra is an internal yoga practice that can take students to a deep level of meditation (turiya) with much less training than is required to achieve a similar state with a traditional seated practice. There are many classes labeled as Nidra that are really just guided meditations. A true Nidra practice incorporates both physical practice (asana, or simply tensing and relaxing one’s muscles), and pranayama (breathwork) as preliminary stages in a guided meditation that is specifically designed to slow one’s brainwaves from their waking beta state into deeper levels of relaxation.
As we continue to relax, we descend into deeper levels of consciousness. Eventually we are able to access our subconscious mind- a place beyond learned fears and boundaries. This is where the Nidra practice becomes so powerful. Instead of just learning to access and enjoy this state (which is always an option- one I recommend for my beginning students), Nidra enables us to plant an intention into our subconscious mind. At this level, below fears and learned behaviors, our intention is able to take hold and manifest in a way that would otherwise take years of meditation and karmic clearing. To put it simply, Nidra allows our intention to slip through the barriers erected by our conscious minds.
Because our intention becomes such a powerful tool when incorporated into a Nidra practice, it is vitally important to craft our intentions carefully and deliberately.
What is an Intention?
I think of my life as a continuous sea journey. Like an old fashioned sailor (one without GPS) that steered towards a point on the horizon, my intention is a destination I want to reach. It helps me stay calm and focused in moments of fear, stress and turmoil.
An intention can be as simple as wanting a new iphone or an Hermes bag. Those on a spiritual path (and if you’re reading this you’re most likely conscious of your spiritual journey) are best served by choosing an intention that will help them become more aligned with the greater good or release karmic blockages. Even if you simply want a Hermes bag, try to look deeper and uncover the energy blockages that are keeping you from manifesting abundance. For example, perhaps you feel you don’t deserve to have pretty things. Then a good intention would be something like “My life is filled with beauty and abundance.” The clearer and more focused you are on your intention, the sooner you’ll manifest it. Losing focus (out of fear or disbelief), will cause you to drift.
Tips for Crafting an Intention
I use the word “craft” very deliberately when I refer to intention. Creating an intention takes a little work. Since it’s such a powerful tool, you need to make sure you create one that will be effective and, most importantly, work with your rather than against you. Here are three important rules to follow:
- Your intention should be worded in the affirmative: Manifesting is all about truly believing that you have attained what you are trying to create. Putting the words “no” or “not” in front of something doesn’t work. For example- saying “I do not get angry” uses the word angry, and forces your attention towards that word. Better to say “I accept and forgive the actions of others.”
- Your intention should be in present tense: This reflects back to the idea that manifesting is all about truly believing you have attained something. The best way to do that is employ language that implies you have reached your desired state. Saying “I am joyful” leaves no room for other options. Saying “I want to be joyful” leaves room for other emotions to take hold. Remember the scene in the movie The Empire Strikes Back, where Luke tries to lift his x-wing fighter out of the swamp, but keeps failing? Finally Yoda lost patience with him and simply does it himself, with the power of his own mind. Luke, looking on in disbelief, said, “I don’t believe it.” To which Yoda replied, “And that is why you failed.” That is the perfect example of why intentions should be positive, and worded in the present tense. Leave no room for failure.
- Your intention should be medium or long-term: Think of your Nidra intention as your spiritual lighthouse. It should help you steer the course during rough times in the journey of your life. Once you reach it you can create a new one to take you through the next leg of your journey, but you don’t want to do this every time you practice. Be patient and take the journey one step, and one intention, at a time.
Search inside yourself
Many people don’t immediately know what their intention is. That’s ok- taking time to figure it out is all part of the process, and typically requires some internal searching. Here are a few questions to get you started:
- What is it that I want most in life?
- Why do I want what I want?
- Would it give me true satisfaction?
- How do I want to feed my soul/spirit?
How to Use Your Intention
Write it on a piece of paper and take it to a Nidra class! If you don’t have a Nidra class near you, there are many CD, MP3 and streaming versions available. The Flying Carpet, the yoga app I’m developing for frequent travelers, will have a number of Nidras available. If you’d like to help launch The Flying Carpet, we have a special perk available: for $75, I will create a special yoga Nidra MP3 just for you.
I recommend attending an actual class 1-2 times per week, and listening to an audio version of it 1-2 times per day. Studies show that practicing Nidra 18 times is enough to cause a meaningful energy shift for most people.
Much gratitude and thanks to Yogi Amrit Desai, Kamini Desai and John Vosler for introducing me to Yoga Nidra.
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