Setting an intention in yoga (referred to as sankalpa in Sanskrit) can be defined as a goal consciously decided upon ahead of time.
Beyond yoga, we set intentions all the time. We have an intention when we schedule a meeting, when we have a conversation, when we walk into a restaurant . . . Even on a subconscious level, our lives are filled with setting intentions.
Intentional living, mindful consuming, conscious relating – all these buzzwords fill the yoga, health, and wellness sphere. Mindfulness is perhaps one of the most popular terms of our healthy lifestyle era and it’s all about being present, deliberate action, and living from a place of awareness.
Yoga, at its base, is mindfulness in motion.
Mindfulness can be defined as present moment awareness in all aspects of the here and now – how we feel, how we act and speak, but also everything that surrounds us. Mindfulness is tuning into the surrounding sounds, sensations, and happenings to become fully present.
Yoga, at its base, is mindfulness in motion. It is the act of being fully present in your body, focusing on your physical movement, your breathing, and the experience.
As yogis, we employ certain tools to help us stay focused and present during our time on the mat. Pranayama, or conscious breathwork, is one powerful way to keep the mind focused and the body steady. Drishti is the focal point where we set our gaze for physical balance and mental focus.
Another tool we can use for focus and presence in yoga is setting intentions. An intention is another way to keep your mind steady during your practice.
What Is Sankalpa? How (and Why) Do You Set an Intention for Your Yoga Practice?
A sankalpa (or intention) can be a word, a mantra, a phrase, a statement. It can even be a color, a happy place, a feeling, or a person or people you want to send good vibes to.
As you can see, intentions are open for interpretation and are up to the individual practitioner to determine.
You can choose the type of intention you want to use based on your desired outcome – whether you want to stay present, feel a certain way, invoke a certain type of change or shift, send positive energy to someone in need.
Take a moment to decide and create your sankalpa from there.
Setting an intention in yoga can inspire, motivate, and create determination. Intentions can help you stay focused and keep your mind steady.
There is no right or wrong when it comes to setting an intention in yoga.
If you’ve ever taken a yoga class, you’ve probably heard your yoga teacher guide you to set an intention at the beginning of your practice. Sometimes teachers will offer a specific intention for the class.
Here are some great sankalpa examples: 10 Mantras to Set a Powerful Intention for Your Yoga Practice
Why Do We Set an Intention In Yoga?
There are many reasons why we set an intention in yoga. Some people use a sankalpa in their yoga practice to remind themselves why they stepped onto their mat (for peace, stress relief, a more positive mindset, fitness, endurance, injury recovery – the list goes on!).
Other people use an intention to influence their practice with a particular mood or focus. Some believe intentions carry a greater power to heal, touch other people beyond the yoga room, instigate change, and more.
Now that we’ve established what intentions are and why we set them in our yoga practice, let’s explore a few examples of intentions that you can use to deepen your understanding of what an intention is (and can be).
Here Are Some Sankalpa Examples You Can Incorporate Into Your Own Yoga Practice:
You can use these intentions in your own practice, or reference them for inspiration to create your own.
And remember – an intention in yoga can be anything you want it to be, so get as creative and/or specific as you’d like when setting intentions in your own practice.
For the sake of simplicity and organization, the following example intentions are categorized based on the uses for intentions discussed above.
1. Sankalpa for Presence
- I am here
- I am present
- I am fully present
- Be here now
2. Sankalpa for Grounding
- I am grounded
- I am rooted to the earth
- I am safe
3. Sankalpa for Peace
- I am at peace
- I am peaceful
- I inhale peace, I exhale peace
- Shanti, shanti, shanti
4. Sankalpa for Focus
- I am here and I am clear
- I am focused
- I am aware
- Focus and presence
5. Different Types of Intentions in Yoga
Remember that intentions don’t have to be words, phrases, or mantras. They can also be a feeling, a color, or something you want to get out of your practice.
Here are a few examples:
- Sankalpa to activate your chakras: visualize the color associated with that particular chakra
- Sankalpa to send love to someone who needs it: visualize that person and imagine a wave of loving energy extending outward from your mat to them
- Sankalpa to stay focused on your breath
- Sankalpa to not look around and/or to keep your eyes on your own mat
- Sankalpa to have an amazing practice!
Setting Intentions In Yoga: The Takeaway on Sankalpa
There is no right or wrong when it comes to setting an intention and the sky is the limit when you set a sankalpa for your yoga practice. Get creative! Use mantras, use visualization, and most importantly, use your imagination!
While there are many reasons and purposes for setting intentions, the point is to help us step onto our yoga mats with even more intention, direction, and focus.
Simply put, a sankalpa is a simple yet powerful tool to aid in your yoga practice and help you get the most out of it. Setting intentions pulls those intentions onto your mat and out into your life.
As yogis we have seen the incredible power of our yoga practice to empower, uplift, strengthen, heal, shift, and evolve our minds and bodies. Use a sankalpa to magnify this power and optimize your ability to get what you want out of your time on the mat.