Future suffering shall be avoided –Yoga Sutra 2.16

When I began doing yoga, I wasn’t really aware of it being more than the physical poses. I assumed that the calm and clarity everyone talked about came from physical effort and the class environment that the teacher created.  It wasn’t until my teacher training that I learned about the Yoga Sutras. The Yoga Sutras are the foundational texts of yoga doctrine that put forth ancient philosophical concepts regarding lifestyle habits beyond the physical postures. In fact, poses are only mentioned once in the dense material. These teachings underlay the practices of self-study, mindfulness, and intention.  

As mindfulness and intention have taken on their own pop-culture stardom these days, sometimes the benefit of these original teachings can be overlooked. We have come to think of intention setting as a form of resolution making. However, as we approach the new year, let’s veer from that traditional view and approach the topic with honestly acknowledging where change begins.

Trust yourself, apply compassion and open to the possibilities that intention setting provides!

In initiating the call for change, the teachings of the Yoga Sutras ask us to delve a bit deeper to the root of intention, trusting in our ability to resolve, not the outcome of the resolution. We have to believe, without questioning or analyzing that we have within us the tools and the capacity to awaken our best Self. When we accept this, we shift our perspective and begin to release expectations from outside influences. Instead of resolving to “lose 5 pounds”, we set the intention to feel better in our bodies. Instead of resolving to “find a new job”, we set the intention to honor our professional value. Centered in this fresh perspective, our intentions become more authentic and we start to see that there are many paths to our contentment waiting to be discovered.

Once we begin to trust ourselves in this way, we must accept also that we are all made up of behavioral patterns that have become our mental, emotional and physical default settings. They are like scars or record grooves on our subconscious that have accumulated from past experience and have shaped our character, our internal dialogue and our perspective on life. These patterns have been and continue to be influenced by interpersonal relationships with friends, family, and co-workers. They can’t be re-routed simply because the calendar turned from 2017 to 2018. When we acknowledge and honor that our behavior has been shaped over time, we can begin to release negative thought patterns and sustain our motivation to foster positive change.

Yoga Exercise for Intention Setting

Use the following breathing exercise to focus your mental, emotional and physical efforts to become present with your current intentions.

Find a quiet, private space. Sit with your back supported by the wall or lay down on the floor. Relax your face, shoulders, and hips. Open yourself to this moment, release expectation.

  • Place your hands on the belly- inhale to draw the breath into the abdominal area and feel the belly press against the hands- exhale feel the breath recede and the belly drop down away from the hands. It may take a while for the breath to deepen into the lower part of the body- invite in patience and simply notice what you feel. Approximately 10 breath cycles.


  • Move hands up to rest on the rib cages (sides of the torso). Shift your inhale from deep within the belly into the lungs, causing the ribs to move into the hands; as you exhale, let the breath go and feel the ribs and lungs returning towards your center. Allow the breath to start to even out so that the inhales and the exhales have the same length. Notice the length of your breath on each side. Approximately 10 breath cycles.


  • Bring the hands to the collarbones and feel the breath shift now into the chest, or the heart’s center. Continue to keep the breath balanced on each side. Approximately 10 breath cycles.


  • Release the hands and bring them to the belly. Inhale 1/3 the length of your breath into the belly, 1/3 into the lungs, the final 1/3 into the chest. Exhale, release the breath from the chest, the lungs, and draw the belly in to release the breath fully. Approximately 10 breath cycles.

Discover your Intentions with the Exercise

As you find your breath and your rhythm, notice what arises. Observe what sort of reaction starts to present itself. However, resist chasing that reaction. If the mind begins to wander, note where it goes and invite it back to the breath without judgment. Through observation without analysis, we are able to drop labels, definitions, and expectations of what we should feel and begin to observe, sense and familiarize ourselves with our own rhythm.

As personal awareness deepens, begin to gently inquire about your intentions. What do you really want? What is holding you back? How is not pursuing your intention holding you back? Will you trust yourself enough to move forward? Take time to write a handful of descriptive words that illustrate these feelings related to these answers. Be honest, don’t hold back.

Are you craving more self-study and support in exploring your behavioral patterns, intention setting and making sustainable changes in your life? Join Annie and Emilie Maynor for their series, 40 Days to Free: Breaking Out and Tuning In starting on January 11. Learn more at www.thefearlessom.com and www.villageryoga.com

Set Intentions not Resolutions

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Annie Damsky
About The Author
- Annie Damsky is the owner of Villager Yoga, a studio that offers yoga for the whole family, located on Overton Road in Mountain Brook/Cahaba Heights area. She is certified to teach prenatal yoga, kids yoga and grown-up yoga and has been sharing the practice of yoga with the community since 2009. Annie had her first child, a baby girl, last year in February.