The Power of Intention

The Power of Intention

Maybe you have been in a situation—like the start of a yoga or meditation class—where a teacher nonchalantly asked everyone to set an intention, only that request didn’t entirely make sense to all of the participants. These days, we toss around this idea of intention-setting very casually, but the truth is that it can be an incredibly powerful tool for manifesting our dreams. Understanding why is helpful, not only in motivating us to make use of this practice, but also in increasing its potency.

Prana Follows Focus

One of my most beloved teachers, Dr. Claudia Welch, often says that, “prana follows focus.” It’s become a bit of a mantra in my life, because it reminds me that it matters where I place my attention. If prana follows focus, then wherever I am placing my attention is naturally attracting life-force energy and being magnified. The more unshakable my focus, the more life-force energy gathers around whatever it is I’m focused on. Honestly, this can be either a blessing or a hindrance; it all depends on where my attention is—and how intently it is focused there.

The Power of Choice

What this means is that, at least to some degree, each of us has the capacity to direct our life-force energy, and we have moment-to-moment choice about where to channel it. This is precisely why intentions are so powerful. Consciously setting an intention creates an intense level of focus around what it is that we are intending, which magnetizes prana, and in turn amplifies the potency of our dreams. For example, when we concentrate intently on what we most want to bring into our lives (or into a particular moment), our attention will naturally channel life-force energy toward that very idea, which can’t help but support its manifestation. But let’s say we’re playing something traumatic, hurtful, or infuriating over and over in our minds. Inevitably, prana will coalesce around those thoughts, reinforcing rather unsupportive patterns in the mind-body matrix.

Please Feel Your Feelings

Let me pause for a moment to say that, in no way am I suggesting that one should avoid negative emotions. In fact, I would argue that all emotions need to be fully felt in order to be released—and that not feeling them is a much more problematic strategy than acknowledging them and allowing them to move through. All emotions—pleasant or unpleasant—are intended to move, to flow… not to lie stagnant in our minds and bodies. That said, fixating on a powerfully-charged emotional trigger tends to be rather counter-productive. For me, a more effective strategy has been to acknowledge the emotion (without judgment), connect with my breath, observe the sensations in my body, and to notice the naturally dissipating energy of the emotion. When I’m able to do this, it allows me to more swiftly return my attention to what I most want to create so that my life-force is energizing my dreams rather than my experience of suffering.

Bridging Mind and Heart

In Ayurveda, the mind is said to live in every cell and tissue throughout the body, and it is rooted in the heart, as is prana vaha srotas (the prana-carrying channel), which carries prana throughout the body. Therefore, our intentions will be far more powerful if we take the time to ground ourselves in our bodies, open our subtle energetic pathways, and initiate our intentions from the heart-space rather than from the intellect. When we purposefully focus on awakening prana in our bodies in order to support our intentions, we can magnify their impact. Here is a step-by-step guide to setting intentions in this way.

 

Intention-Setting: Five Steps to Creating Miracles

This process can be applied to any type of intention, be it large or small. Perhaps it’s an intention for a new year, a new day, or a specific practice (like yoga or meditation). Or it may be an intention for a particular conversation, meeting, or business offering. This entire process can be done in five to ten minutes, but if you want to spend longer, you certainly can—and doing so will likely further amplify the power of your intention. Regardless of your physical posture, be sure that your neck and spine are straight, as this will foster alertness and receptivity in the physical and energetic bodies. 

1. Connect with your breath.

Breathing deeply, gracefully, into the entire body initiates a powerful opening in the subtle channels of the body. Taking time to encourage fluidity and flow in the prana body as we begin ensures that our life-force is awake and available to us. A few slow, deep breaths will do wonders for enlivening the prana body.

2. Ground your energy.

Grounding helps to ensure that we are present, anchored in the moment, and that we are actually in our bodies (rather than stuck in our heads, flitting through rapid-fire thoughts, or in any way cut-off from being fully embodied). Here are some helpful ways to ground yourself:

  • Bring your awareness to those areas of your body making contact with the earth, the floor, a chair, or whatever might be supporting you at the moment.
  • Consciously give your weight over to gravity. Feel yourself tethered to this particular location, relaxing into the earth’s embrace.
  • Bring your awareness to the soles of your feet. Imagine your feet firmly planted in the soil of the earth. With each inhalation, imagine breathing in through the soles of your feet, and with each exhalation, imagine roots unfurling from the bottoms of your feet—descending deep into the earth, perhaps all the way to the core.

3. Open your subtle, energetic body—the prana body.

There are a number of ways to more consciously awaken and stimulate prana throughout the body. Here a few ideas:

  • Practice a few minutes of pranayama. Supportive practices include Full Yogic Breath, Nadi Shodhana (Alternate Nostril Breathing), or a few minutes of both. 
  • Take several slow, deep breaths, visualizing prana traveling from root to crown on each inhalation, and then back down the central channel and into the earth on each exhalation. Alternatively, you can visualize your prana body filling and expanding outward with each inhalation (even slightly beyond the boundary of your physical body); on each exhalation, picture the prana coalescing around your spine and central channel.

4. Connect with your heart center.

Now bring your attention to your heart chakra and visualize a glowing sphere of light near the center of your chest. As you inhale, imagine that sphere expanding outward—like a balloon inflating—expanding in every direction. As you exhale, allow the energy coalesce at the center of your heart space as you drop deeper into Self. Repeat this process for several breaths until the heart space feels open, expansive, and alive.

5. Name your intention.

This is a highly personal process and the only “right way” to do it is your way. Allow your intention to emerge organically from your heart; you can speak it out-loud or simply hold it silently in your mind. Here are a few examples:

  • Today, my intention is to steep myself in self-love, to quiet my self-criticism, and to practice devoted self-care.
  • May this yoga practice serve to release tension from my tissues, gather my strength of will, and bring balance and fluidity to the channels of my body—both gross and subtle.
  • As I take this digestive herb, may my agni (digestive fire) be strengthened, balanced, and freed of ama (toxins) so that I might cultivate optimal health through perfect digestion and nutrition. 

Now What?

The next steps are a combination of surrender and action. Trust is essential. You have named your intention. You have invoked support (from your own life-force energy and from the unseen world). Now, learn to trust the divine timing of it all. Yes, continue to hold your intention close to your heart, focus on it as often as you like, and take steps toward bringing it to life. But also keep in mind that over-efforting generally causes more restriction than flow, which tends to hinder the natural unfolding that wants to emerge. Instead, stand in the open, creative energy of the divine feminine and believe that your dreams will come into form. Your job is simply to keep putting one foot in front of the other, and to delight in the journey.