How to Set An Intention in Yoga Class

Yoga class often begins with the instructor inviting students to silently “set an intention.” During my very first experience in a studio, I heard this “set your intention” phrase and thought to myself, “Uhh… my intention is to do this yoga class.” That didn’t get me very far in deepening my practice.

I would like to think that I’m not the only one who found the “set your intention” phrase confusing. A deep understanding of it can lead to a more beneficial practice, so let’s Sherlock this issue.

 What does setting an intention mean? 

 What are the benefits of setting an intention in yoga class?

 How do I set an intention?

pic-intention-setting3WHAT IS AN INTENTION?
Setting an intention is not the same as setting a goal for yourself. An intention focuses on what is of most value to you in the now, as opposed to a goal, which is directed toward a future outcome.
An Intention is… “To accept where I am today without judgment.”
An Intention is Not… “I wish to hold crow pose today for 5 seconds.”

An intention can be something deeply personal or something physical. It’s a continual aspiration to guide you toward balance in your life. To treat myself with love and respect. To find peace in my heart. To let love in. By calling to the forefront of your mind what your soul is needing most, your intention will in some ways set itself. You can use your intention to connect your practice to being. When setting your intention, remember:

There is no right or wrong way to set an intention, and it comes in different forms for everyone. Whether it’s a word, a dedication, a quote, a prayer…  just be open to whatever comes to mind (aiming to steer clear of material things).


The idea in yoga is to keep your mind and body present, truly in the moment (and not thinking about post-class happy hour). It is in that space where we reap the benefits of our practice.

I have realized over many moons of practice that intentions induce focus. They act as filters. They can help to keep your mind from wandering and keep your spirit fulfilled by what matters most.

Another benefit of setting an intention? The ability to take it with you off the mat. Using it to guide your actions and decisions. I often find myself seeking patience in yoga class, then calling my intention forth when, for example, I’m on the 405 Freeway or lost in Ikea. Recalling our intentions throughout the day helps us to lead a values-based life.


Allow yourself to recognize the first word that comes to mind when the instructor invites you to set an intention. The most powerful intentions, those that can be carried with you over time, speak to the feelings that would bring value to your life. When you begin setting intentions, I would suggest starting with how you feel, then build your intention on your instinct.

pic-intention-settingFEELING –> INTENTION

Anger –> Forgiveness
Fear –> Comfort
Weakness –> Strength
Sadness –> Joy
Doubt –> Peace
Insecurity –> Confidence
Instability –> Balance
Betrayal –> Truth
Indifference –> Compassion
Constraint –> Freedom
Emptiness –> Fulfillment
Loneliness –> Community

Setting intentions at the beginning of each practice has helped me to realize that what I need to feel fulfilled is never material goods. As a self-proclaimed shopaholic, I often get carried away placing high value on things like clothes and shoes. It’s interesting, though, that those things have never crossed my mind when setting an intention. Trust, love, openness, joy, honesty. Intentions are a beautiful reminder that those values are woven into our core for a reason. What our hearts seek are the things that matter most – both on and off the mat.