Newton’s First Law of Motion: A body in motion will stay in motion. More precisely, an object moving at a constant velocity stays in motion in a straight line unless acted upon by an outside force. (Thanks, NASA.)
I’ve heard this law often used as encouragement for routine. For example, going straight from work to the gym without giving yourself time at home to lose your motivation.
OK, I can see that.
But if our bodies in motion are simply going through the motions, where is our intention?
Teachers at Evolution will often ask our students, in the beginning of class, to “set an intention” for their practice. Sometimes it’s a word, sometimes a powerful “I am” statement. I am grateful. I am strong. I am here.
This intention provides a grounding point when my mind begins to wander in class. When the poses get difficult and I forget to breathe. When I fall out of half moon and I want to give up instead of raising my wobbly leg to start anew. The affirmation of who I am — who I intend to be in this practice, this moment — provides the encouragement to show up, to drop my story that today I just can’t balance, and instead, to do the thing. It also gives me permission to listen to my body, to recognize that some days, my body needs less and not more.
In yoga and in life, it’s easy to move in a direction that is the direction we are already moving. I wobbled in my half moon, so it’s easier to drop my leg than reignite an energetic push through my heel. It’s easy to get stuck, to give up.
It’s easy not to pause to consider whether our actions are reflective of what we value and what we believe.
One weekend mid-way through teacher training, I realized that I was expecting some great revelation or clarification from the program — basically a cosmic sign that would say, “SURPRISE! What you’re doing with your life is wrong. Here’s what you should be doing instead. It’s crystal clear, it’s laid out for you in a 10-step program, and there are no gray areas. Get on with it.”
Spoiler alert, teacher training is not like that. Teacher training is not like that and life is not like that, because you get out what you put in.
If I wanted to become a better teacher, I had to seek feedback from others. If I wanted life change, I had to be open and honest in self-inquiry. If I wanted a shift in my physical practice and a possible flight in crow, I had to commit to — you know — practicing. On the days that I couldn’t or wouldn’t do those things, that was my choice.
And truly, the choice is what’s beautiful about life. (And about teacher training, and yoga overall.)
I get to decide what I put in every day.
At any point I can say, I’m not living in a way that is authentic to who I am. At any point, I have the opportunity to say this is what I am and this is what I am not. This is important to me, and because it’s important to me, this is what I’m going to do.
If it’s important to me to cultivate gratitude, I can choose to be grateful in my practice, even in the poses I want to skip. (Here’s to you, namaste front facing forward fold.) If it’s important to me to be a part of and to build this community, I can choose to show up for class and greet my fellow yogis by name. If it’s important to me to grow, I can stay when I want to fold, to breathe when I want to quit.
Setting an intention for your yoga practice is a powerful reminder that we have a choice, an active choice. We choose what lens we view our day through, how to respond to each situation, what mindset we bring to a conversation.
And we always have the choice to reset, to readjust, to refocus — and to start anew.