Intentions: kick the habit and change your groove.

You’ll never change your life until you change something you do daily. The secret of your success is found in your daily routine.John C. Maxwell

Whether we like it or not, we are creatures of habit. We are emotional beings that like patterns, we find our comfy groove and we cycle over them, reinforcing them, carving out a deeper impression, making them difficult to resist. This is great when it’s positively intended, but not so great for those destructive negative mental patterns that foster low self-esteem and such. You know the ones, the thoughts that say ‘I’m rubbish, I can’t do it, ‘I’m no good at anything’, blah blah, whenever we face the slightest failure. Those grooves are the hardest to climb out of, and can be quite a hindrance to our positivity and self-development.

A samskara comes from the Sanskrit word ‘Sam’ (complete) and ‘kara’ (action), and is like a mental ‘groove’ or impression, formed by a repetitive mental habit or response, which can cause negative feelings within the body and mind.

In the classes I teach, I normally start with quiet sitting to still the mind, let the body settle, and allow everyone the space to really arrive into the room and find themselves on their mat. Following this, I may also offer the space to set an intention (or Sankalpa) for their practice, something that I feel is really important.

For some yogis, they know why they’ve turned up on the mat, or what they intend to ‘work on’ and notice within their practice. Whether it be patience, kindness to themselves or focus etc. (for other yogis pinpointing this isn’t so clear, in which case, that might be a good place to start!). During their practice this intention brings a heightened sense of awareness and consciousness, so that when a habitual response (or samskara) arises, it can be noticed, experienced and better understood. For example, that frustration that arises when we can’t touch our toes but Bendy Wendy next to us can reach her elbows to the ground, or that impatience we feel when we forget to notice our breathe throughout a difficult vinyasa, or that insecurity we feel being at the front of the class where others can see us instead of at the back of the room in our ‘safe’ corner.

For those of you who have never really understood what you were meant to do with this ‘intention setting’ part of the class, and feel like you’ve been missing out, hopefully now this has helped!

Through this increased awareness, instead of these mental grooves and habitual responses that we fall into getting deeper and more ingrained into our subconscious nature, they start to create smaller impressions, until, eventually, there is a release from the samskara – yippee!

Sounds easy, right?

No. Changing habits, of course, isn’t easy. You have to try, on purpose.

Where to start? With the intention. Align your inner desire with the energy to notice, and eventually change, your patterned responses. Call upon this intention like a thread (or sutra) to weave throughout your practice, as a gentle reminder.

Ok, so now I notice, I am aware, I’m ready to change…but I can’t, I’m scared.

For example, I could go easier on my body in my practice and not push myself to the limit, but then I wouldn’t be ‘the best in the class’, or I wouldn’t be improving, and then what would be the point?

Or, I could take the spot at the front of the class by the teacher for once, but then everyone will see how ‘rubbish’ I am at yoga and then I would feel anxious and self-conscious.

Sometimes this increased awareness can bring uncomfortable and unpleasant feelings along with it, and bearing these feelings, without falling back into old familiar habits, is hard.

So, what to do?

We start to plant seeds, and dig away at new, healthier, grooves that will allow us to flourish. Yes, this takes time, but it will be naturally evolving and self-sustaining. Eventually, we can shift our groove from old, negative habits to new, positive ones.

Did you know you don’t even need to be on a mat to do this?

Big love X

The first step towards change is awareness. The second step is acceptance.Nathaniel Branden