I feel like the word intention is one that I encounter on a daily basis, and multiple times at that. What is the significance of intention? Why is it important for meaningful and fulfilling encounters? Why does your yoga teacher sound like a broken record – “Set an intention for your practice.”? I am quite certain that I do not have the only answer for these questions, but I am happy to offer the meaning behind this word for me personally and the way that intention has shifted and transformed my life.
First the backstory of my yoga practice:
Yoga made its way into my life about 10 years ago in the form of exercise and relaxation- nothing more, nothing less. My thoughts during a yoga class were either why I couldn’t keep breathing at the same pace the teacher was directing or how in the world I was going to manage to get into a headstand without falling on someone. It seems that the more I talk to people that have been practicing yoga for an extended period of time, the more I hear similar stories of beginning yoga as a physical practice or something to help them relax a little and sleep at night. Little did I know, when I walked into my first yoga class at Aspen gym in 2003, that it would turn my world upside down.
I continued to practice yoga 2-3 times per week throughout college. When my husband and I moved to China in 2007 it became the only form of exercise that I could participate in because of the pollution in the city we resided in. Anytime I ran or rode my bike, I felt awful afterwards, but yoga allowed me to connect my mind to my body and breath. Rarely do I share how challenging living in China was for me, but I dealt with depression for the first time in my life and yoga provided me relief from anxiety and the dark place that I seemed to be stuck in. I often joked with my husband that when we returned to the U.S. I wanted to be a dog-walking yogi. It is interesting how dreams manifest themselves once we verbalize what is it that we really want, but I will share more on that later. Yoga became part of my daily routine during our time in China and for the first time, it became a practice that not only provided me with some form of physical activity, but also peace with myself. It was not uncommon for Matt to come home to our apartment after his night classes and find me asleep with our dog on my yoga mat after a really good savasana. I began to toss around the idea of going through Yoga Teacher Training while we were still living in Asia, but due to our status as poor, newly married college students and the need for me to finish up my student teaching, it did not work out.
Once we returned from China we quickly began chasing the American dream. We bought cars, we purchased a home 6 months after our return and we both began our first big kid jobs. After job hopping for about a year, I landed a job in accounting at a large OKC company. I was excited by the security, the incredible 401k, an office to report to each day and a steady income. This excitement kept me satisfied for about six months and then the desire to find a career that I truly loved kicked in. During this time I relied on my yoga practice to help me shift my perspective and to practice gratitude for the life I was able to live. Yoga continued to become a more integral part of my everyday life. I began to dream even more about the possibility of teaching yoga as a full time job. Matt and I started having regular conversations about what that would like, if we could ever afford for me to do something like that and if it truly was the desire of my heart or just an impulse to get out of something that was clearly making me unhappy. It didn’t seem to matter how much I tried to change my attitude, the discontent for my job situation continued to grow. There was one point that we went on a trip to Colorado and on the drive home I started to think about how much I dreaded going back to work and I cried from Kansas to Oklahoma. Time to change things, right? I decided to go through teacher training with Andrew Eppler at Ashtanga Yoga Norman. I am eternally grateful that I had friends, teachers and Matt who encouraged me to take the leap.
Matt and I started crunching numbers to figure out the minimum I needed to make to pay for our cars, our house and our food. We saved enough money so that if I only taught 1-2 classes a week for 6 months we would still be able to pay all of our bills. I quit my job in January of 2012 and the rest is history. Matt had a mentor that told him to fail hard and fail young and this has inspired many of our decisions since. It is funny how much we get worked up and worried about things to realize that the worst case scenario is not all that bad. I understand that taking risks does not always work out how we planned, but often it ends up better than we could have imagined. After quitting my job, my teacher/friend/mentor Mandy Lathan asked me to help cover her studio, Cadence Yoga, while she traveled to India for teacher training. This allowed me to teach 7-8 times per week and during this time I also trained to become a barre3 instructor and began teaching there as well. Everything worked out, our bills continued to be paid and the anxiety of reporting to a job that I did not love disappeared. This Confucius quote is probably overused, but it has definitely proven to be true in my life- “Choose a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life.”
This story continues and I look forward to sharing the process of becoming a studio owner, but right now I want to return to intention and the importance of it. Mandy Lathan taught me a great deal about incorporating intention into yoga classes and I am very grateful for this lesson. I don’t think I fully recognized at the time, but setting an intention to live a more fulfilling and service oriented life helped guide me to make a necessary career change. This is not to say that everyone needs to quit their job and teach yoga. We are all on very unique journeys and it is important to recognize what our intentions are and how they can be manifested in our career and our relationships. The definition of intention is: the thing that you plan to do or achieve, an aim or purpose. This is different from setting goals (which are also important). Setting intention allows us to recognize what we want to think, how we want to feel and how we will respond in every situation. If our intention is to love more- this is a big one for me right now, then we are more concerned with loving ourself and others than doing whatever it takes to achieve our goal. Intention has the ability to change our lives and it continues to change mine.
I’ve shared in my previous post about the 40 Days of Intention that we will be embarking on as a community and this is something very dear to me. I firmly believe that if we can all live and breathe with intention we will be more mindful of the way we injure ourselves and others, we will understand how our actions affect those around us, we will recognize the incredible power of our words and we will begin to see how our intentions can guide us into a more meaningful, impactful and fulfilling life. Although we might only be on our mats for one hour a day, being intentional for that hour can empower us to be intentional when we return to the real world. If we can practice breathing for an hour while making our body into a human pretzel, then we can probably breathe when someone cuts us off in our car. If we can practice non-violence with our own body on our yoga mat, then we most definitely have the ability to not harm others with our speech. If we can change our perspective in an inversion, then we can choose to look at things in a different light. Intentions are powerful and I look forward to living more intentionally with you.
Evolve with me,