Typically, when you attend a yoga class the instructor will ask you to reflect on an intention at the start of class, or, if no intention comes to mind, the instructor will offer one for the class. Maybe you would ignore this, or not really understand what the teacher means. But setting an intention has a valuable purpose during a yoga class.
Setting an intention allows the practice to be differentiated from just an exercise class. Most people enjoy yoga for the physical and mental benefits the practice offers; setting an intention allows you to reflect and set a focus to carry you through the flow.
An intention brings your attention and awareness to a quality you desire to cultivate during your practice and then to carry off your mat. It sets a purpose for showing up on your mat; carving out time for you.
Examples of intentions include:
Root to Rise
Opening the Heart
And the list goes on.
There is no right or wrong intention. It can be whatever you feel you need it to be. Setting an intention allows you to be more mindful; it causes you to reflect and look inward to what you may need today.
The intention is beneficial because it allows you to concentrate and stay focused during the practice and also inspires a purpose during the flow.
Then, being mindful to carry the intention off the mat into your day allows you to spread the intention to those around you. Next time you are in a class and the teacher asks you to set an intention, look inward and think of what you most need out of the class. Then watch how it guides and motivates you during class!