Yoga and I have a complicated relationship. I’ve always liked the way my newfound muscles ache the morning after class. But that whole part about quieting your mind? Not my strong suit.
So, when I heard of Yoga for Better X—a class from 305 Fitness that challenges participants to set an intention for each practice—I was intrigued. Since exercise is a rare break in my otherwise hectic schedule, I typically use it to tune out. It’s one of the few parts of my day when I can daydream about that hot guy I saw in the elevator or the pasta bolognese I’m going to eat for dinner. But if my mind was going to wander, shouldn’t I concentrate on something more useful? (Get your down dog on at home with this our Flat Belly Yoga DVD.)
Focusing My ‘Om
Here’s how Yoga for Better X works: At the beginning of each class, the instructor asks you to choose an X, which can be literally anything you want to cultivate. Confidence, communication, and sexiness are a few examples listed on 305’s website. The instructors also set their own intentions for how they’ll teach. One day might be more geared toward strength, while another is focused on mindfulness.
I decided to make my first class “yoga for better work,” since career goals were at the top of my mind. When the teacher asked us to use the energy building in our bodies to fuel our intentions, I pictured my downward-facing dog propelling me toward new opportunities. I know, I know, it sounds hokey. But I’m a sucker for visualization, manifestation, and pretty much any new-age practice ending in “-ation,” so I felt right at home.
Because I’d started my first forward fold with the intention to improve my work life, it felt disingenuous to space out as I went through my flow. So, I pumped myself up with positive thoughts about the work waiting for me. I brainstormed ways to inject personality into my next assignment so it didn’t get tedious. I reflected on my long-term goals and what steps I could take to achieve them.
When I got back to my apartment, I really did approach my work with more creativity than usual, and I sent an email about an opportunity I’d wanted to pursue but hadn’t had the time to think about. (Or because I was busy daydreaming about that hot guy in the elevator…)
Leaning in to My X
Throughout the week, I did “yoga for better work” three more times. Aside from the intention-setting, the class was no different from a typical beginner’s yoga class. The low difficulty level probably aided the pursuit of “X”—after all, it’s hard to think about your goals when your abs are burning. But there was nothing unique about the movements themselves. You could have an “X” with any yoga class.
In fact, you probably should. “Too many people give up on exercise programs because they don’t have a real reason for doing it other than ‘Well, I’m supposed to exercise,’” says Doug Sklar, certified personal trainer and founder of New York City-based fitness training studio PhilanthroFIT. “Attaching meaning and merit to each and every workout, whether yoga, running, or strength training, will really help you stick with your program over time.”
You don’t need to go to Yoga for Better X to infuse intention into your practice, but the class does teach a useful philosophy. If you can’t quiet your mind during yoga, you’d might as well fill it with something more meaningful than what you’ll eat for dinner. During my second class, I spent my time getting pumped up about an article I’d been procrastinating. By the time I sat down at my computer, I didn’t dread it anymore, and I finished around 2,500 words in one sitting. Namaste all the way to the bank, baby.