Thursday, February 7, 2013

Setting Intentions

At the beginning of every yoga class I take, there is an opportunity to create a personal intention.  It’s the moment when you are able to ask yourself, why am I here right now?  Each time I come on to my mat, I have the wonderful opportunity to rediscover my motivation for being there, as it can always change.   The teacher usually instructs us to think of a simple word, a virtue, or a dedication and then gives us space to think.  However, more often than not, before coming onto my mat I’ve had a long day at work, a stressful drive during rush-hour, and a lingering feeling of annoyance that all together leaves me rather fatigued.  It’s all I can do to muster up the mental energy to be fully engaged in the first three minutes of class, let alone dig deep and remind myself of the real reason I showed up that day.   Sometimes, before I know it we’ve began class and I somehow missed the moment when I should have made an intention.  It may sound silly, but it’s no easy task to come up with an intention. 

When I first began, my intentions were simple: learn what I was doing, pay attention, and (gasp) lose weight.  My motivation was coming from my brain, not my body, and often led to so-so feelings at the end of class.  However, as I practiced more and let a lot of my insecurities go, my intentions became clearer.  I would feel them arise inside way before I stepped onto my mat.  When I would become frustrated at work, I would know that I would practice yoga to bring me back to calm.  Each movement and breath became less about what I looked like in the mirror, and more about how I spoke to myself inside.  Yoga became the main thing that filled my mind when I had space in my day.  It was the primary source of physical movement in my days and weeks.  It became part of my every day.

But as it often happens when life becomes routine, my mind and body began to feel “stale.”  There wasn’t much stimulation or challenge either on the mat and or off—and if there was—yoga had made me so calm that it barely struck a single cord of adrenalin. I had lost my umft, my grit, my drive somewhere along the way.  I was always a competitive athlete, so what was nice about yoga was that it calmed down that aggression.  At the same time, it nearly took it all away and in many ways, I was lost without it.

Then, I got engaged.  During the early months of engagement—despite  my original assumptions about myself—my  thoughts became all. about. wedding.  (Rest assured, not in a bridezilla type of way, but oh-my-god-I-love-everything, sort of way.)  I continued to go to yoga (which kept me sane), but my days and nights become infinitely more busy.  Then at the same time, my parents began an awful and bitter separation, which obviously could not have come at a worse time.  My mind became all jacked up again.  However, as a good friend always does, yoga kept me grounded.  When it was time to set an intention, I would dedicate my practice to my mother, whose heart was breaking; or to my sister who needed support and love.  I would allow virtues such as patience, forgiveness, kindness, and love to lead me through practice.  Yoga, in a quick and effortless swoop, became my therapy.  Intentions came easy again.

Yet, as with all wounds, time passes and healing occurs.  Now here I am, married and happy and nothing immediate on the horizon, and I am once again struggling with intention struggling with coming up with an intention for my yoga practice.  I have (as mentioned in my last post) began training with CrossFit and am set to compete in my first competition.   In CrossFit, I set intentions as well, albeit they are usually different than those set on my yoga mat.  I have goals to get stronger, improve certain Olympic lifts, and move more efficiently.  CrossFit has helped me fill the void that was left when I stopped competing in sports and has really brought a spark back inside.  (Of course it helps that the hubby loves it as well, so it has become something we love to do together!)  I think about getting to the next workout and I am excited when I leave.  Having a competition to work towards motivates me to do my best each and every time.

So, how do I come up for intentions for both?  On the surface, they seem like two very different animals, yet ultimately they are one in the same.  When I first came to CrossFit, my intentions were similar to those I had when I started yoga: learn what I was doing, pay attention, and (gasp again) lose weight.  (Did I learn nothing from years of yoga practice?!)  But now, just as was with yoga, at CrossFit I am striving to be a better person, push myself, give it my all, and see what I am made of.  Like yoga, CrossFit is ultimately a practice to strengthen your mind.   

After coming to that realization, last night I had the most fulfilling yoga class that I’ve had in at least a month.  When it came time to set an intention, I challenged myself to be present, be in tune, and to try my best.  And really, what more can we ask of ourselves?

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