Intent is another step towards a more subtle asana practice. As breath can be a sheath for movement, so can intent be a sheath for breath & movement. My teacher introduced this model as “IBM – Intent, Breath Movement”.
Intent comes first – for example “I am going to inhale and raise my arms” is formulated before the inhale begins. Only then does the inhale begin, shortly followed by movement. When movement is completed, inhale continues a bit longer and when it has completed there is again closure & confirmation of intent – for example “I have finished inhaling and placed my arms on the floor”. A similar pattern is then followed on the exhale.
Intent “takes place” between inhales and exhales – during breaks/holds in the breathing. To practice intent you need to first develop an extended capacity of breath – including breaks and holds which you can hold comfortably. Otherwise intent will become a rushed, unsteady, destabilizing practice that may compromise the development of the breath & movement.
At this elaborated phase of practice there is an opportunity to glimpse some under-currents in Yoga philosophy and practice:
- Vinyasa – each layer of practice is a foundation for a more subtle form of practice. Each subtle development in practice reinforces the foundations upon which it was built. There is a gradual learning process – each step a preparation for another.
- Dismantling and Rebuilding – despite the popularity of Yoga as a “calming” practice – it is actually a purifying process in which the system is disturbed and then re-assimilated, over and over again. Breath separates movement and forms a new & refined unity, then Intent separates breath and create a new and further refined unity… and so on.
- Expansion – each sheath extends each cycle of practice in both quality (length & intensity) and quantity (subtle refinement). Expansion eventually leads to energetic practices with an opposite quality of compression.