Before starting a yoga class, it is important to set an intention for the practice that day. When first starting to practice yoga, the intention may be something simple like, "To feel more relaxed.", "To unclutter the mind.", or perhaps on a particular day it is just to get in some physical activity. As one's practice advances, the intention starts to go a little bit deeper, for example, sending love and/or gratitude to a loved one, or perhaps, dedicating the practice to a higher power.
Why set an intention?
The intention can help to bring focus to the practice that day. It directs the energy of the practice to something greater than just the poses. It can also help connect the body, mind and spirit, which is one of the benefits of a steady yoga practice. As a person's practice advances and the intention becomes a surrender to God, one is then observing the act of Isvara pranidhanam, or total surrender to God. When practicing yoga, many emotions and energies that can be confusing to someone can arise, the best advice is to offer that energy up to God. Let it release and one can find freedom.
Isvara pranidhanam is one of the niyamas, or observances, that the sage, Patanjali, wrote about in The Yoga Sutras. It is part of the yogi's spiritual path to surrender everything to God. When one practices this, he or she becomes unattached to possessions, worry, clinging, the pulls of the modern world. Once this happens, and one becomes a renunciate, the mind becomes free and peaceful. If a yogi practices this, samadhi, bliss, will come to him or her. It not only gives one's yoga practice more focus and meaning, but slowly, as one practices this dedication in everything one does, even off the mat, it gives everything in life more focus and meaning, whether it is taking out the garbage or going to work in the morning.