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The Art of Yoga Goal Setting

by Marianne Navada

Yoga goals motivate us to practice regularly and feel a sense of accomplishment, but they can also lead to injuries if not approached with patience and care. For goals to make sense, they have to be measurable and in yoga, the natural tendency is to focus on a pose and the optics. Are my hands closer to my feet? Are my legs straighter? This is the reason why Instagram has been instrumental in building a yoga community. We see the pose. We are encouraged to take an image or a video of ourselves to measure how far along we have come. 

Although understandable, there’s a danger to having a visual metric for yoga goals. Focusing on a specific pose and how we look doing it certainly helps us understand areas of improvement, but it can also lead to impatience and a clouding of the big picture. After all, yoga at its core is about sensations–how we feel and not necessarily how we look.

Here are tips on how to use goal setting to develop a personal and injury-free yoga practice. 

Long term vs. short term

If the pose is the long term goal, use preparatory poses to build the strength and the flexibility as your short term goals. This provides you with incremental metrics.

A good example is pincha mayurasana or forearm stand. Flailing about and using momentum to get the feet above the ground doesn’t work on the strength and flexibility to hold this pose. Sure, you might get moments when you can hold it, but coming up this way doesn’t help you build the foundation and solid alignment. Instead, work on shoulder strengthening poses, such as dolphin.

  • Work on walking the feet closer to the face and on keeping them as straight as you can.
  • Try lifting your heels if you need more of a challenge.
  • Hold the pose. Start with 30 seconds and incrementally increase the time.
  • Dolphin pushups. Start with 5, increase it to 10…
  • While in Dolphin, lift one leg and hold. Resist the urge to hop up. Make sure to do both sides.
  • While in Dolphin, lift one leg and bend knee, place it as close to the belly as possible. Resist the urge to hop up. Make sure to do both sides.

@yogiaubrey shows ways to prep for pincha mayurasana

Goal vs. value

If the pose is the goal add a value to what you’re trying to accomplish. Examples of values are patience, humility, self-control, or acceptance. Always ask yourself if you are practicing these values on your journey to the physical posture.

Tomorrow is another opportunity

Be kind to your body and listen to it. You might not hit the short term goals daily, but keeping in mind that you will again get the opportunity to practice the next day will put you in a mindset that yoga is not just something you get to do sometimes, but it’s a constant in your life.
Commit to living.