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The Conflict of Goals in Yoga


Intention is the seed of action. Goals focus action, bringing structure and purpose to our efforts. There are drawbacks to having goals, however. Goals can be limiting. They can cause our focus to become too narrow, anticipating only the end result, and the feeling of accomplishment that comes with that. These are reasons why for many, goals and yoga do not belong together at all.

Yoga strives to rid one of ego. Yoga teaches forgiveness and acceptance. Yoga is about the journey, NOT the destination! There is no destination in yoga, no conclusion, because you are always growing, learning and improving. Yoga focuses on the details, and the big picture. 'We are one', not 'we won'! How can you have goals in yoga without completely defeating its purpose?

Being able to integrate goals into your practice while learning to let go of your expectations can actually become another wonderful lesson in your practice.

Yoga is not about never having goals. Yoga is about making sure your goals are connected to an intent that is not ego-driven. Having purpose in your life is fulfilling and gives you a reason to move forward. Yoga is all about thejourney! Having goals can fuel your journey, on and off the mat.

Creating Yoga-Friendly Goals

Like all things yoga, creating goals that align with your practice involves mindful awareness, patience, and breath. Don't create goals on a whim. Here are six tips to get you headed in a positive direction.

1. Awareness of intent

Remember those intentions? Think about them. Look carefully at their origins. Are you intent on self-gratification? Recognition? Or maybe your intent is to improve your health? Develop a more positive outlook? This is the time to sort through your intentions as one would weed a garden. Nourish the intentions that put you on a positive, nurturing path. Rid yourself of the ones that will lead you towards self-doubt, criticism or a lesser self-image.

Here are some examples. Say you've realized you have intentions of creating a healthier lifestyle, losing weight, fitting into a smaller size, being able to run farther, being more efficient... How will you do all of that? It's a rather daunting bunch of intentions!

To weed through them all, you have to explore their roots. Why do you want to lose weight or have a smaller waist? Is it because you feel heavy in your body right now, you do not feel as energetic as you would like to, or is it to conform to someone else’s view of beauty or health? If it’s the latter, the intention might not be in line with your authentic self. Why do you want to run farther? Is it because you want to challenge yourself to master the body with the mind or is it because you like the idea of being tell someone, “I can run X miles.”  Get comfortable exploring the roots of your intentions, you may be surprised how many of them are about serving someone else. Feel free to weed those ones out!

2. Write it out

Once you’ve weeded your goal garden, write out the ones that are still there! Create mantras that will remind you of your purpose, and keep them in places where they will be easy to access and remind you of your purpose. Putting a goal in writing helps to solidify your intent and ensure your focus is where you want it to be.

Let's go back to the intent to live a healthier lifestyle. How can you write yoga-friendly goals? Embrace the journey. Don't aim for extreme makeover, but one breath at a time; make the changes. An example might be "I will try ayoga sequence, try onehealthy recipe, and go to bed early one night each week." See where that takes you.

3. Create a timeline

Goals need structure, or they get easily shuffled to the very back of your mind. There, they can become guilt-trip fodder, and you don't need that! So put them at the top of the list, in a reasonable way. That one yoga sequence you're going to try? Schedule it for this week. Plan to find your healthy recipe this weekend, and block that time out on your calendar. Make an appointment with yourself, and treat it with the same respect you would if you had made an appointment for work or with a friend.

4. Be flexible

Tried the sequence and fell over? Tried the recipe and it's a total fail? That's fine! Make adjustments, try again, or try another one. This is the journey, and the end doesn't matter. You can stay in this trial and error period as long as it takes until you find your flow.

5. Learn

The good things, make note of them. The spills and wobbles, assess them. Pluck out thelessons, let go of the tension. Your goals should not come with punishments, only growth and learning.

6. Breathe

Yep, breath is life! Breath is patience and persistence. Breath is consistent, and comforting. With the faith you have that your next breath is coming, approach your goals. You will get there, one breath at a time. And if you don’t, that’s perfect too.



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