Most of us all know the power of setting good goals. With goals, we are able to be more focused, we have direction and purpose, and we are more motivated to actually go after what we want in life. Goals help to keep us on track. How often do we think about setting goals in our yoga practice though? If you've ever worked with a personal trainer you were probably encouraged to set goals or if you're a runner you might set a time goal for your next 5k. Yoga is not just an exercise or a physical practice but with some good goals in place we can get closer to the actual goal of yoga and we can have a more focused, intentional practice that benefits our physical health as well as our emotional health.
So what is the actual goal of yoga per what the ancient yogis say? Some would say the goal of yoga is self-realization. We are trying to transcend our ego so we can connect with our pure or higher self. From this place of consciousness, we are able to still our thoughts so we are not disturbed by the external world. We have found and connected with complete peace in and of ourselves. Now all of this might sound a little 'out there' or difficult to translate into something that you feel resonates with you, so I want to simplify it even more. The goal of yoga is to find peace of mind. We all ultimately come to yoga for our different reasons. Some of us might be coming to yoga because we are desperate for some stress relief while others of us might be trying to ease low back pain and stiff muscles. Your goal for practicing yoga might look a little bit different than the ultimate goal that's set in the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali and that's okay. The important thing is, you're doing yoga now! When the student is ready, the teacher appears. Feel free to use the next few steps as journaling prompts to help you discover some good goals you can use to deepen your practice.
First of all, I want you to take a moment and think back to what made you start yoga. What made you decide it was finally time to step into that very first yoga class? For some of you, this first class may have been years ago and for others, it may have only been a short time ago. Either way, connect with yourself in that first yoga class and what motivated you to get there. If you have never attended a yoga class before but have been thinking about it, what led to that initial thought? What did you think that yoga class might help you achieve? After you have identified your initial reason for coming to yoga I want us to evaluate your current practice.
So, let's dive right in to part two! What is your current yoga practice like? Is it consistent? Do you feel like it has depth? What is it lacking? What positivity is it bringing into your life? If you feel like your yoga practice is becoming stale or mediocre, I would ask you to consider how frequent it is. One of the most common conversations I have is when a person tells me they attended a yoga class to help with an ailment. I'll excitedly ask if they felt like the yoga helped and they say "No" to which my follow up question always is, "How many times did you go?" Yoga is a practice . It is not a perfection of poses or a 'one time fixes all' kind of routine. In order to reap the benefits of yoga, we must practice continually and with consistency. So if you're feeling like your yoga practice is less than, I would encourage you to increase the amount of time that you practice and then set some goals for yourself. This leads us to our final point.
Lastly, look over the answers to the previous questions about what is lacking from your current practice and consider that when creating your goals for your future practice. How can you best use your time on the mat to nurture and care for yourself? Maybe you'd like to connect with your breath more in certain poses or maybe you would like to finally stop fidgeting in savasana at the end of class. Whatever goal you come to, be sure to keep it in the context of "how can I use this to care for myself", rather than "I'm doing something wrong and need to fix it." One way of thinking comes from a place of "I'm not good enough but by completing this goal I will have worth" while the other way of thinking is "I am worthy of this care so how can I use my yoga practice to best take care of me?" I would encourage you to think of physical and mental/spiritual goals in your practice as well. Yoga is not just a collection of poses to post on Instagram. It's a spiritual practice so consider this aspect as well. Take some time to write your current goals down and sit with them a moment.
After you have set your goals for your yoga practice, be sure to read them over before each class or even before doing yoga at home. Use these goals to help you stay focused during your practice and to lead you even deeper into yoga. If you're having a hard time knowing what goals to set or what to prioritize, feel free to leave it as a comment on this post or ask one of the teacher at our studio. We would be happy to help you think through some ideas. If you're all set and already have those yoga goals ready to go, share them in the comments so we can get excited about those goals with you!