We all reach that point in yoga where we need a little something to make us step on our mats. Sure, yoga is about love and acceptance, but sometime you want to be able to do that cool forearm stand or side crow. There’s nothing wrong with setting a yoga goal for yourself, in fact, when done right, it can be downright motivating!
A Word About Intentions
First, let’s look at the difference between a yoga goal and setting an intention for your practice. You have most likely had the experience where you’re at the beginning of a yoga class and the teacher asks you to “set and intention” for your practice. If you’re new to yoga, you might have taken that moment to open one eye and peek around wondering what the heck the teacher was talking about.
Setting an intention for your practice allows you to bring the focus inward and gives your mind something to focus on other than the 1000 things you have going on after class. It is in the present tense and is a short, affirming statement such as “I am focused and grounded” or even as simple as “I am powerful.” It is deeply personal. Think of it like a mantra you can use throughout class to keep you focused (you can even try taking it with you and repeating it mentally as you go about your day).
If you need help deciding on an intention, choose something in response to whatever is happening in your life at the moment. For instance, if you are harried from dropping the kids at school and rushing to your favorite yoga studio only to find there’s no parking, your intention could be something like “I am calm and centered.”
Setting Your Yoga Goal
A yoga goal is entirely different. Goals are specific, measurable, attainable, rewarding and trackable (S.M.A.R.T.). Let’s look at what that means when you are talking about setting an appropriate yoga goal.
Your yoga goal should be focused. Specific poses, increasing your flexibility in a pose, holding a pose for a specific number of breaths or practicing yoga for a specific amount of time per week are all examples of specific goals. Make sure you don’t fall into the trap of making your goal too vague. For instance, “Become more flexible,” is not specific enough, “Increase my flexibility in my seated forward fold,” is.
Make It Measurable
If you have made your goal specific enough, it should be easily measurable. Either you get on your mat every day for 20 minutes or you don’t. Either you are pressing up into a handstand or you aren’t. Keep track of your progress in your calendar or take photos!
Make Sure It’s Attainable
If you just left your first class, teaching a class next week is an unrealistic goal. Your goal needs live in that sweet spot between being too easy and being unobtainable. If your goal is too lofty it can be discouraging. If you really want to accomplish something large, say doing full lotus in handstand, but you’re not doing headstands or full lotus yet, it’s a good idea to set smaller, more attainable, goals you can reach along the way to keep you inspired.
It Has to Be Rewarding
This probably goes without saying, but if you don’t derive pleasure from chasing your goal, you need to change your goal! Sure, there are times where your goal may be challenging. You might choose a yoga pose you find uncomfortable a set a goal of adding it to every session you do, but you should still find the practice of improving that posture rewarding.
Here’s where the magic happens. You may not feel like your flexibility is improving in king dancer because it is such a gradual process, but keeping a photo log can prove that you are making progress. Be sure to review your progress periodically to stay motivated!
Are you running a blank thinking of a good yoga goal? Here are some suggestions to get the ideas flowing:
- Choose a specific posture
- Increase flexibility in a specific posture
- Practice yoga for a specific number of times per week
- Begin a practice of setting an intention for each practice
- Include pranayama in each practice
- Try a new style of yoga for a set amount of time
- Include seated meditation in each practice
- Enter and complete an online yoga challenge
- Read yoga related texts each night
- Keep a yoga journal