Off Your Mat

Bringing yoga off your mat into your life, one pose at a time.


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The Good Intentions Pose

Samuel Johnson

“Hell is paved with good intentions.” -Samuel Johnson

One of my favorite yoga practices is setting an intention before class.

I consider it a personal indulgence to be able to give my practice a meaning. The purpose is to use your intention to support you through the challenging asanas. It can take on any incarnation you give it. A mantra. An image. A dedication. It can be a place to dig a little deeper to go farther than you have before.  Or it can give you the permission to take it easy and not judge yourself. It’s a beautiful, mutable thing.

I taught yoga to students in an after school program in Camden, NJ. It was at the same high school where I taught English. Before practice, I would give them the option of sharing out their intention. They loved it.

I did too. It was an interesting window into teenager’s hearts.

My Amazing Students

pure hearts

Their intentions surprised me. They went big, setting intentions for their lives in that quiet little class. They shared goals that initially struck me as impossible to accomplish in yoga class and really having nothing to do with yoga at all. Intentions of degrees, fame, life-long comfort and wealth flowed from them in a river of youthful hopefulness.

It gave me pause. But instead of meddling, trying to drag the focus back to yoga related intentions, I let their dreams flower. Who am I to judge what inspires and motivates?

I realized my class was a safe place for them. It was a moment that they had complete control over the goal they wanted to set. Like most teens, my students didn’t always get to pick their goals in other parts of their day. I feel privileged to have been there to listen.

There was a lesson in that for me. Have there been times when I judged my own dreams? Have I adjusted my own intentions to fit my surroundings? Sure I have.

If I had to guess, I would think we all do that from time to time.

Even though I was the teacher, those students taught me a valuable lesson:

Don’t let good intentions, obscure the true intention.