Why do we set an intention in yoga? I think this can be the most difficult part of the practice at times. Often I, I know I explain it as, the intention is there so that if your mind wanders of your practice bring it back to your mat with your intention. Upon reflection, I get that is an abstract answer! For years I really didn't know what intention to set or how to come back to it off the mat. I then began to set my intention to reflect how I wanted to cultivate my thinking on an off the mat. I started with a little mantra, "I am aware." I needed to be aware of what was around me, what was happening both inside and outside with my reactions, staying focused to invoke a positive shift. I needed to be aware of my movements on the mat so I didn't strain myself (I can be too competitive) and aware of my actions, tone, and facial reactions to those around me. Being intentional in my reactions as I was in my thoughts. My intention reminded me to take pause on and off the mat. This year I have moved to words to say "I am at peace," "I am grateful," or "I am love." I like to offer these intentions in class and come back to them throughout my practice while revisiting my breath on the mat or as a reflection of the quality or virtue I want to embody in my everyday life. In my own practice setting in intention was initially deliberate and a little bit of work. The mindfulness was a deliberate practice on my part before I could be embedded to my daily life creating the positive energy and focus both on and off my mat.
So tonight, I decided to start running again after taking 2 months off. I do run, not fast, but I have been running for at least 10 years a few times a week. I wasn't running a Boston Marathon pace by any means, but I was keeping a solid 11:OO min pace. And, yes, I was fine with it. As I ran, I was clearing my mind, and as I ran farther I began to drift my thoughts to yoga. I found myself in my head wondering, has yoga changed my running? The answer was yes.
1. Running in a group v. alone. For the last four years, I have been running with a group. So much so, that I forgot how much enjoyment I get out of running alone. Running for the run. Don't get me wrong I like to socialize, but like yoga, when I run alone, I focus on my run. I am not worried about should we slow down, speed up, talk, stop...I am solely there for me, focused on my pace, my breath, and my thoughts. I do love my running buddy's, but remembering I can run on my own and enjoy it is powerful. Yoga brought that back to me.
2. Breathe! I found my breathing to be really regular in this run. No strain. No passing other walkers who were alarmed to hear my gasping coming up on them as I struggled by. When I felt the struggle in the run, I breathed through it. Much like being on my yoga mat. I found my edge, and push just a little beyond it.
3. Foot placement. I could feel my foot placement in my run, not too far up on my toes, not back on my heels. I felt my foot feeling like it was gently moving on the pavement, not pounding into it. I think this goes back to my yoga practice. Stronger ankles, stronger feet, and stronger awareness of my whole foot and how it engages with the ground.
4. Stride. My stride wasn't constricted. My hip flexors were open, my stride was open. I wasn't shortening it, it was just naturally elongating. When I ran, I thought wow those Warrior Poses make me feel strong in my stride and the Pigeon Pose balances that with stretching. My arms, shoulders and core are also stronger, making the running in general more comfortable as my body awareness is more alert.
As I was running, I was bringing my focus back to the run. Noticing the trees, ducks, and people around me. Glancing and smiling, while engaging myself in my own running practice. Enjoying the run, and what it brought me in that moment.
I wasn't sure what to expect with the Puppy's and Yoga. And to my delight it was wonderful. Having the puppy's there didn't distract from the practice, it enriched it. Those who participated found a different joy through yoga. No, it wasn't asana after asana nor was it sweat producing rigor. It was pause and awareness. It was engaging with innocence, laughter, and unpredictable puppy potty breaks. The puppy's eased those participants "who were just there for the puppy's" to explore yoga. The affect in the room dropped, and in that joy is where the practice resided. It was subtle and slow. The room was jovial. The puppy's and people created a merrymaking yoga practice!