Meditate on an Intention: Inviting Inspiration

Many factors influence the sequencing of asanas: the weather, your [students’] age, your [students’] experience, how [your students are] feeling mentally and physically on a certain day. – Brad Priddy

Meditate in Stillness or in Movement

  • Take some time to be still or move into postures, opening your heart and mind to ideas of what will support the students.
  • Consider how the problems and opportunities of these students can guide the intention for your class.
  • Feel into an intention, taking note of poses, breathing practices and other tools that could relate.

Consider a Response

  • You may wish to respond to a particular condition or energetic state, such as stress or distraction, chronic low back pain, poor muscle tone, kyphosis, low self-esteem, lethargy, depression or anxiety.
  • Your intention can be to create a class to bring balance in response to the condition.
  • For example, if teaching to a group that has exhibited low self-esteem, consider beginning with simple and gentle asana while using wording that inspires self-confidence. Options could be to focus on helping students identify and connect with their sense of grounding, emphasizing such key actions as lengthening the spine, expanding the chest, etc.

See also: Injuries and Conditions

Set an Intention

Examples of intentions follow:

Prepare to teach a peak pose.

Designing a sequence of actions leading to the peak of a practice is all about making the practice simpler, more accessible, deeper, and more sustainable… The peak should not be confused with the point of maximum internal heat generated through prior actions and poses; it is not so much about peak heat as pea openness. – Mark Stephens

  • Choose a pose that would be particularly beneficial to this group.
  • Identify the key actions of the peak pose (e.g. open chest & shoulders; lengthen lumbar & hamstrings).
  • Create a class sequence to include simpler, preparatory asana that have the same key actions.
  • Yoga Teacher Central members can choose desired sequences in the Sequence Index.

Focus on a category of poses.

  • Consider such a focus as standing poses, backbends or twists.
  • Support asana with other tools and thematic language as appropriate.
  • For example, perhaps at a homeless shelter, we find that students seem to lack strength & stability, both physically and emotionally. We might choose to emphasize standing poses & balance work within a well-rounded sequence.
  • Additional ways to support the intention include defining and speaking to the concept of grounding, explaining in each pose where and how to find grounding physically & mentally.
  • Consider using an affirmation utilizing root chakra teachings such as “I am here, now, in my body” or “Right now, I am here & safe.”
  • Yoga Teacher Central members have access to a wonderful and highly useful compilation of teachings on Asana Categories as well as incredibly in-depth Chakra Teaching Tools including sample sequences; affirmations, and more.

Repeat poses.

  • Another consideration is repeating some poses more than once, focusing on such aspects as grounding & engaging legs in one round and spinal lengthening or arm placement in another.
  • Or repeat poses with the specific intention of allowing students more time, heat, and/or awareness to feel a deepening in the posture with each successive repetition.
  • Another angle on this tactic is to show specifically show the impact of, say, releasing tension in the feet with a ball, impacts the depth of a forward bend.
  • The Going Deeper section of each Asana Digest gives Yoga Teacher Central members dozens of cues and inspiring quotes to support them in devising specific and varying intentions for aligning and deepening asana.

Devise a Theme

Feel for a theme, or topic of discussion, that naturally supports the intention.

  • Themes include such topics as grounding, releasing tension & letting go, finding balance, moving from one’s center, opening the heart, finding and living one’s dharma or purpose, listening to inner wisdom and connecting to one’s higher self or a higher power.
  • Yoga sutras and poetry can inspire a theme.
  • Yoga Teacher Central members have access to a huge toolbox of quotes, affirmations and teachings for over 30 themes.

Themes may be devised from a yoga philosophy principle.

  • Themes could include the concept of balancing sthira (steadiness or effort) and sukha (comfort or ease).
  • Another common source of guidance are the yamas and niyamassuch as santosha (contentment), aparigraha (non-attachment) or ishvara pranidhana (surrender the fruit of our actions).
  • Numerous commentaries on the Yoga Sutra are available to help expand on the terse statements.