Set Clear and Powerful Intentions in 5 Steps
As the threshold of the new year arrives and offers us an opportunity to turn the page and step into a new chapter, your mind may naturally begin to turn towards setting new intentions and resolutions.
These days, we toss around this idea of intention-setting very casually. 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, but the request didn’t carry any context or meaning.
Without a meaningful connection to a true desire that stems from the heart, intentions can end up lacking potency and power.
But the truth is, if we understand the deeper why and how behind the practice of intention-setting, it can be an incredibly powerful tool for manifesting our dreams and turning our visions into reality.
Prana Follows Focus
In Sanskrit, the word prana refers to the force of life which flows through all things, giving them energy and power. 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.
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.
Consciously Choose Where to Place Your Attention
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 a moment-to-moment choice about where to channel it. This is precisely why intentions are so powerful.
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.
On the other hand, we can just as easily focus on something traumatic, hurtful, or infuriating, playing it over and over like a record in our minds. Inevitably, prana will coalesce around those thoughts, reinforcing rather unsupportive patterns in the mind-body matrix.
Don't Be Afraid to 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.
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 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.
Take Time to Connect Your 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 channel that carries prana throughout the body.
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 the 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.
As you do this practice, sit up tall with your neck and spine 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, allowing prana to flow and ensuring that your life force is awake and available to you. A few slow, deep breaths will do wonders for enlivening your entire system so that all parts of your being are engaged in your intention.
2. Ground your energy.
Grounding helps ensure that you are present, anchored in the moment, and connected to your body (rather than stuck in your head and distracted by rapid-fire thoughts). 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 and descending all the way to the core of the earth.
3. Awaken your energetic body—the prana body.
There are a number of ways to more consciously awaken and stimulate the flow of prana throughout your body. Here are 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 your root to your 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 and then condensing and coalescing around your spine with each exhalation.
4. Connect with your heart.
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, visualize the energy gathering at the center of your heart space as you drop deeper into Self.
Repeat this process for several breaths until your heart 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 and try to make it as clear and specific as possible. You can speak it out loud or simply hold it silently in your mind. Here are a few examples:
- This year, I intend to cultivate a joyful and loving sense of community by prioritizing quality time with the friends who uplift and support me.
- This week, I will do a self-massage with Daily Massage Oil every day.
- Today, my intention is to steep myself in self-love, to quiet my self-criticism, and to practice devoted self-care.
- As I take Easy Digest, may my agni (digestive fire) be strengthened so that I might cultivate optimal health through perfect digestion and nutrition.
What Happens Next?
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.
Keep in mind that over-efforting generally causes more restriction than flow, which tends to hinder the natural unfolding that wants to emerge. Instead, trust in the clarity and power of your intentions 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 as it unfolds before you.