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Intention and Outcome

I go round and round just like a circle,
I can see a clearer picture

There’s a weird thing that happens when you teach yoga. Well, when I teach yoga anyway. I teach in a very verbal way. Demonstration is not necessarily the most important thing as I try to avoid suggesting that my students imitate the shape my body makes. All bodies are built differently and it’s illogical to expect them to all move in the same way.

So I talk quite a lot during my class. And you find that you repeat yourself in every class. My “settling down” and “waking back up” scripts are always pretty similar these days. This isn’t a bad thing. As a student, the familiarity of the structure of a lesson is comforting and makes it less stressful (and no-one wants to leave a yoga class stressed!) It is also said that we need to hear an instruction at least three times before we really listen to it.

I found this acceptance of repetition difficult for a long time but now I love to slip into the cosiness of it. As a business owner, as a writer and as a speaker I used to feel that the repetition would make me boring, but I’ve realised that not everyone hears, reads or sees everything I put out there and even if they do, few people absorb it first time.

A lot of the yoga I have learnt and that I teach is based on repetition. The repetition of movement builds new neuro-muscular pathways in the body which lead to more nourishing movement. The repetitive practice of meditation creates space between our triggers and our reactions which lead to more measured response. A lot of my satisfaction coaching is along the same lines, training new neural pathways in the brain towards more reasonable thought processes.

This is all about creating new habits, and habits do not happen overnight. Studies show that it can take between 30 and 250 repetitions to embed a new habit. Habits can be anything we do without conscious thought, whether that’s physical movement, thought or emotional reaction.

Every now and then, a new theme comes into the verbalisation of my teaching. More often than not it’s unplanned. It’s not necessarily anything new. Sometimes it’s led by the postures or movement I’ve chosen, often it’s a reminder to myself. And this week the same phrase popped up a few times.

Intention is more important than the outcome.

I don’t subscribe to the idea we should take whatever route necessary to get to our destination. After all, our journeys through life are tend to take longer than we spend at the endpoints. And those endpoints have little meaning if we are no intentionally guided to them.

As an example in yoga. I taught Warrior II this week. It’s a pretty classical yoga pose and one a lot of people will be familiar with. Legs wide, one knee bent, arms out to the side. You can look at any number of photos or illustrations of yoga masters or gurus doing this pose to it’s “fullest”. You can visually try to imitate it. But if the bone structure in your hips is forward-facing, you wil never comfortably rotate your hips to face the front without compromising your knee or your lower back (or both!).

So what’s the point? What’s the point of focusing on the outcome of copying a posture your body isn’t made for that could actually cause you physical damage? Better to have the intention of finding a comfortable, nourishing Warrior II pose which works with your body. Or to consider why you want to do Warrior II at all. Is it for strength? Mobility? Is it more of a mental exercise than a physical exercise?

Of course this doesn’t just apply to yoga. And while sometimes it is nice to do something “just because,” more often than not it is a clear intention that will lead to the best outcome.

Lyric title from Easy Ride by Madonna, written by Madonna & Monte Pittman
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