To me the main purpose and benefit of practicing yoga is to become more present in each moment of our lives, on and off the mat. There are many ways to help you along that path, including breath awareness, and body awareness cultivated through an emphasis on alignment, but this week I want to emphasize another method: setting an intention.

What does that mean? Setting an intention is very different from setting goals. Goals are focused on the future, and on outcome, whereas intentions are focused on the present moment, and on your state of being. “I want to hold headstand for 2 minutes today” is not an intention. Instead, setting an intention is about “align[ing] your worldly actions with your inner values,” writes meditation teacher Phillip Moffitt.

Setting an intention can begin with asking yourself why you practice, and when you figure that out and manage to hold this knowledge in your consciousness when you practice, your practice will gain focus and depth. Yoga teacher Paul Dallaghan suggests that you ask yourself to reflect for a few breaths on these three topics” thankfulness, forgiveness, and guidance. What are you thankful for, what do you need to ask forgiveness for (or what do you need to forgive), and what do you need guidance with? On any given day, see what resonates the most, and use that to select an intention for your practice.

Then return to your intention throughout your practice to deepen the non-physical benefits you derive from your practice by becoming more present in it, and to keep moving your focus away from the goal-oriented mode that most of us are stuck in most of the time. Soon you will notice that your intention will return to you from time to time even outside the studio, quite unexpectedly, as you carry on with the rest of your day, gradually bringing more focus and more meaning to all that you do, through focusing on the doing, rather than the outcome.