What are your intentions? I often say in my classes, what are you thinking? What are your thoughts conjuring up? Give your thoughts intention.
Bhavana – intention with action
A bhavana is often translated as an intention, but it is more specifically an intension, with a mood or emotion that accompanies an action. In Sanskrit the root of bhavana, bhu, means “to be” or “to become”, what do you want to become? Your bhavana can be to become happy or financially stable or whatever you desire, however the intention must be wholeheartedly embraced and placed in the mind, repeatedly. Then followed through with the action of being that.
Yoga practices are designed to elevate our thinking mind out of the doldrums of life and into awareness of our attitudes and emotions and how they effect us (if we let them), and how we can change and direct them if we make the conscious effort to direct our thoughts.
For this to occur, a proper intention and direction of energies needs to be established from the outset of practice.
The mood in which you bring to your yoga practice greatly determines the outcome. The practices of yoga can stir up a lot of energy in the body, if not consciously directed you can increase the good energy along with the bad.
For example one may become highly charismatic but also aggressive, jealous, or easily angered. Or if emotions are not conscious a yoga practice makes some fall to pieces as the opening process becomes too intense for them emotionally.
There are three bhavanas we can work with to balance our attitudes and emotions
- Attitude (Pratipaksha bhavana) – when you notice a negative attitude adapt the opposite attitude. If you feel anger, try to replace it with tenderness toward the person. If you feel jealousy, try to replace it with joy for the other person’s accomplishments.
- Emotions (Saakshi bhavana) – observe your emotions, don’t dwell on them. Not all emotions are going to feel good. Life has challenges, and trying times will always happen. When you observe your emotions and how you react, they gradually lose their energy and power. You can observe and accept less desirable emotions, but not necessarily act on them. There is something to learn about ourselves from every emotion. Can you figure out why that certain situation made you feel the emotion you did?
You are the observer of your thoughts and emotions, you are not your thoughts or emotions. You wouldn’t know you were having a thought or an emotion unless something was there to observe it. Practicing witnessing of your thoughts and emotions periodically throughout the day is a good practice for overall mental and emotional wellbeing.
3. Change (Anitya bhavana) – Nothing is permanent, change is the only constant. Practice having equilibrium of mind when you are faced with change. Start with the little day to day changes that are no big deal (like a detour or a train), this will help you find that equilibrium when the bigger changes hit. When we become balanced we are able to withstand the ups and downs of life. The ability to withstand change is to have the knowledge and expectation that change will come, don’t be surprised by it, prepare yourself to be able to weather some changes and challenges.
These are your anchors as you weave throughout the days of your life; what is your attitude? What emotions does it release in you? And can you flow with changes as they occur? Reflect on them throughout your days as an anchor for control of your thoughts and emotions.
Apply this to your yoga practice. What is the mood you are bringing to your yoga practice? Frustration because you are too tight or can’t do what you used to, or need to rehabilitate something? When you attach that to your practice every time you practice you associate it with frustration.
Can you feel joy in how the practices of yoga increase circulation and bring a sense of lightness and freedom in your body? Attach that to your yoga practice. Then over time when you do your practice, you recall the feeling of joy you associated with it, until the two become interconnected. Then every practice brings joy.
The mood with which we bring to any devotional practice is highly important. All too often, we get bored, are tired, have stuff to do, or are rushing to just “get it done”, viewing our yoga practice as one more thing we have to do in our day. Many people are too goal oriented and miss the sweetness of the practice. Recalling your bhavana as you do your practices will bring about elevation of your thinking mind.
Intension is not your thoughts but they are closely intertwined. It is the contemplation of thought combined with the choice to take action, which is quite similar to the meaning of bhavana.
It’s good to have a daily intension to anchor your mind that changes daily or weekly, or even every few weeks. Daily intentions can change frequently and be based on anything that is going on in your day, or life, that you want to create or positively affect.
We also want to have a lifelong intention, one that we repeat to ourselves the same way every time. In Yoga Nidra this is known as Sankalpa or resolve. This should NOT be an affirmation, ex. “I will exercise 4 days per week” or “I am going to eat better”, these are statements of will. Your lifelong intention goes much deeper, for example part of mine is “to not be afraid to be my true self”. The Serenity Prayer is a good resolve, “grant me the serenity to accept the things I can not change, courage to change the things I can, and wisdom to know the difference.”
If you are unsure of your lifelong intension, it is OK not to have a sankalpa. But direct your attention and energy there, most likely one will come, and when it does, you will know.
Here are some ideas of intentions to focus your thinking mind on throughout your day:
- Remove resistance from my body and mind
- The faith to follow your intuition
- Detoxify body and mind (focus your mind on your gut as you breathe)
- Have greater compassion
- Develop more awareness or understanding
- Improve your HRV
- To connect body mind spirit
- To connect to a higher consciousness
- To heal physically or emotionally
- Improve your re-action to a situation currently in your life
- A new job or new career
- Building a business or creating something
- Time for art, exercise, or other self development
Throughout your practice, when your mind drifts (as it will), bring it back to your intension, you can even place your bhavana in your mind throughout the whole day.
To help with Bhavana there is a Sanskrit sloka that goes with the Sun Salute to help the mind with intention. This sloka should be held in the back of the mind during sun salute practice, when this is done it will assist with mental and physical strength and therefore will help you achieve what it is you have set out to do in this life. This sloka is from the Aruna Prasna and is in the Krishna Yajur Veda (aruna denotes the time of day when the sun rises in the east).
Each phrase is synchronized with a pose in the sun salute (there are 10 phrases in all), you are not to recite these mantras verbally as that will alter your breathing rhythm, instead you are only required to remember the mantra in the back of your mind. With the sun in my mind I meditate on the following:
Om Bhadram Karnebhih Shrnnuyaama Devaah = Om, (Oh Deva) may we hear with our ears what is Auspicious (conducive to success)
Bhadram Pashyema-Akssabhir-Yajatraah = May we see with our eyes what is Auspicious and Adorable
Sthirair-Annggais-Tussttuvaamsas-Tanuubhih = May we be playful in life with Steadiness in our Bodies and Minds
Vyashema Devahitam Yad-Aayuh = May we offer our lifespan (allotted by the Devas) for the Service of mankind
Svasti Na Indro Vrddha-Shravaah = (May Indra, the Deva of Great Wisdom and Glory), grant us well-being by bestowing us with wisdom
Svasti Nah Puushaa-Vishva-Vedaa = (May Pushan, the sun god, the Nourisher, and the provider of great knowledge) grant us well being by nourishing us and granting us Knowledge
Svasti Nas-Taarkssyo Arisstta-Nemih = (May Tarksya, a Mythical Bird of great Protective Power who has a thunderbolt to dispel our misfortunes), grant us well-being by protecting us from mis-fortunes.
Svasti No Vrhaspatir-Dadhaatu = And May Brihaspati, the Guru of the Devas, grant us Well-Being
OM Shanti, Shanti, Shanti = Om, may we recognize we are all one, Peace from Nature (regarding storms and natural events), Peace with each other, and Peace Within.
This mantra is asking for longevity, hearing and seeing what is pleasant, happiness, health and equilibrium in our bodies and minds, so that we may live a long life free of disease to provide a good service to mankind.
The mantra then goes on to ask for Wisdom, Knowledge, nourishment, to be protected from mis-fortunes, and asks for general well being. A nice way to start your day.
Sometimes I even tweak some of the English words I repeat in Down Dog to suit me or my day or what is swirling in my world to some version of this below (you also can do the same, make it fit you):
★Please bestow upon me the good fortune of having only good thoughts
★Of hearing and speaking only Satya words and seeing good things (Satya is the Sanskrit word for truth, but it means truth that does not hurt, very difficult!)
★Of having a sound, strong, light, and pain free physical body
★that I may live a long life teaching and speaking words of value and wisdom that many people benefit from, and attain yoga, helping to spread the yoga joy ;).
There is also a mantra for Sun Salute B. Surya Namaskar B is said to benefit the heart — when a beginner first starts practicing sun salute b they find themselves quickly winded, but if you keep with it you will get a stronger and a more cardiovascular-ly fit heart from practicing giving you a strong heart.
The Rig Veda states that whoever is suffering from heart trouble will find their trouble eliminated if they practice Surya Namaskar B regularly. This is because the surya namaskar b mantra destroys the inner enemies (which if left to manifest will become our outer enemies). The Vedas describe 6 poisons that surround the spiritual heart, recitation of this mantra helps to rid these poisons from our body. They are:
According to the Rig Veda by removing these poisons from our body, heart disease will disappear.
The mantra for surya namaskar B is long and complicated, instead I focus my attention on breathing around my heart while holding down dog. I focus on having my breath encompass my heart, front to back, side to side, top to bottom, keeping the heart area open and allowing prana to circulate around the heart.
As you begin your practice with sun salutes what is your intension? Make a conscious effort toward the internal contemplation and having a positive intension with each practice that you can pull your thinking mind back to; practicing power of mind, not letting the mind jump around from one topic to another.
As energy is directed to your intention, you need to be aware of your thoughts because they closely intertwine with your intention. Your thoughts can be distributed into 2 categories; Negative thoughts of desire, and misfortune and positive thoughts of good will and harmlessness.
When the mind is left un-censored the average person will have 3 negative thoughts to 1 positive thought. We can change that by evaluating our thinking.
When positive thoughts arise, understand these thoughts to be conducive to the growth of wisdom and intelligence. Therefore, you want to strengthen these thoughts.
Because negative thoughts and positive thoughts are polar thoughts, you can not hold both in your mind at the same time. Which thoughts do you want to hold in your mind?
Intentions & mindfulness habits to mix throughout your days. These also strengthen HRV.
Heart Breathing to shift your emotions
- Sit tall, shoulders relaxed, chin parallel to the floor. Place your tongue on the roof of your mouth, lips closed, teeth gently touching. Set your breathing rhythm to a slow and comfortable inhale and exhale.
- Focus your attention on the area of your heart. Imagine breathing directly through your heart. In your minds eye see yourself inhaling and exhaling through your heart center, bypassing the nose, throat, and lungs
- Feel your heart expand with your inhale just like your lungs do, and every so slightly soften inward with your exhale. Feel your breath flowing in and out of your heart.
- You can lay your hands around your heart to assist with this feeling. Lying your hands on your heart area is calming.
- Add love. With your mindfulness on breathing through your heart, make a conscious effort to radiate love to someone you know — anyone. An acquaintance, someone you saw at the store, a co-worker, a child, spouse, or friend, send them love.
- After a moment or so, open your eyes. How do you feel? A little more calm? Balanced? Happier? This is a quick method to reset your mood or attitude.
Quick HRV Technique
- Heart-Focused Breathing
- Activate a positive emotion such as love or caring for someone.
This is especially helpful during transitions, before leaving for work or leaving for home, before a meeting, checking email, — but especially before addressing a problem or issue with anyone. If this is the case, sit and send the person you need to address them love or the loving kindness meditation, then sit with your heart focused breathing and send them love.
The Loving Kindness Meditation
You can also send the Loving Kindness Meditation with your breath to shift an emotion or feeling, Send it to a person you are challenged with or send it (in your mind) to someone who is feeling an emotional challenge to help lift them up. Or just send it to someone you love as a quick lift for yourself.
To practice, envision in your mind a person, inhale deeply and on your exhale say a line quietly to yourself sending it in your minds eye to the person you are envisioning:
May you be filled with loving kindness
May you be well
May you be peaceful and at ease
May you be happy
These types of breathing exercises and meditations increases HRV (high HRV means your nervous system is in balance) and has a carry over effect into your next conversation or activity. This can help bring you more clarity and facilitate more flow — moving in a state of ease throughout your day. Choosing your actions and reactions rather than responding in unconscious childhood programmed ways.
- Raising your baseline HRV benefits overall health and wellbeing, and increases happiness. Higher HRV means you can handle more challenge with calm. Literally raising the barre on what you can handle before you go into a stress response.
Practices like these activate the higher centers of the brain where we make our best decisions. And it only need to be done for a minute and be used in the moment. It is also a nice way to start your meditation practices.
It’s a way of raising your vibrational energy level if done for a few minutes at the start of everyday. By raising your vibrational energy I mean it releases feel good neurochemcials such as GABA and hormones such as oxytocin and serotonin that lift your mood and emotions, helping your think clearer, and helping you to like people better (oxytocin).
We want to be aware of our moods and attitudes all day long. Set your intention at the start of each project or transition, then breathe the feeling that accompanies the intention into your being. This aligns your heart, mind, and nervous system for better intuitive guidance. As heart energy is added to intention it aligns you more with your meaning and purpose in life.
The more you work with these techniques that raise your HRV you may find you can more easily can shift your mood to love, appreciation, care, compassion, and kindness imprinting them into your intentions for the day creating more energy for you to create what you want.
Heart feelings; gratitude, appreciation, kindness, care and compassion create an internal energy environment that boosts creativity and positive emotional flow. Any of these quality attitudes that involve our heart feelings can help calm our system for more clear thinking and effective decision-making.
With all the polarity is swirling around in the world these days generating more love, care, and compassion in your own being will help spread these feelings beyond yourself.
Set your intention to activate a heart feeling in the morning:
- Choose a heart quality that makes you feel better, such as Love, Appreciation, Care, Compassion, Kindness, Ease
- Take 3 minutes in the morning, breathe in that heart quality for a few minutes as you begin your day.
- Throughout your day practice replacing negative thoughts or feelings with a heart quality that adds lift to your energy.
Then use it throughout the day to:
Prep for desirable outcomes: Prepare to be emotionally and mentally poised and self-secure before an upcoming situation, interaction or life event. This can help you experience more confidence and balance in your mental and emotional system.
Here is a sample list of situations that bring tremendous energy savings and better outcomes from using the tool, Prep before:
- Working with someone who makes you feel uncomfortable
- Leaving home in the morning to start your day with a positive outlook
- Having a sensitive conversation
- Reading and answering emails and texts
- Important meetings or presentations
- Having a conversation with your kids
- Tackling your to-do list
As you do your heart-focused breathing, see or imagine yourself in the upcoming event, situation or interaction. See a positive outcome and everything aligning just as you’d plan.
Set your intention to radiate love and positive energy into your upcoming event; this creates a positive energy field that can increase clear thinking and inner poise, and help the even flow along smoother.
Mentally Prepping increases your capacity to remain calm, poised and in charge of your emotional actions and reactions if challenges come up. This reduces stress and energy drains.
And then during the event pause and radiate genuine care at different times to help keep moods uplifted or to restore harmony in touchy situations.
In between times
Use in-between times to help reduce overwhelm and anxiety by replacing looping worry patterns or self-depleting thoughts.
Radiating heart felt thoughts and feelings is especially good for lifting spirits when when mood is low, after practicing it a few times the lift happens quickly.
At anytime, sit in a quiet place for a moment and breathe slowly, imagine yourself slowing down your mind and emotions with your breath until you become calmer. Then radiate appreciation to a friend, family, a pet, or anything you care about. Simply feeling genuine appreciation strengthens our intentions to take charge of our energy and create change for the better.