In any ongoing practice “resolutions” can often be preconceived as negative, or invoke guilt if we don’t follow through. Yoga offers a refreshing alternative tradition to the New Year’s itch to give things up through annual resolutions. This practical approach is called sankalpa, or resolve. Sankalpas give us a more positive yet equally powerful way to achieve personal improvement. And with sankalpas, anytime is a great time to let go of guilt and open up to new possibilities--not just over New Years.
Rod Stryker, Founder of ParaYoga, explains, “that kalpa means vow, or the rule to be followed above all other rules. San refers to a connection with the highest truth.” Sankalpa is thus a vow and commitment we make to support our highest truth that honors the deeper meaning of our life and speaks our larger purpose, or dharma. As we embrace our overriding purpose for being here we can then set ourselves free from ego driven resolutions of years past.
A sankalpa helps us set our conscious intent towards something greatly valued. It starts from the radical premise that we already are who we need to be in order to fulfill our life’s purpose. Sankalpas simply focus our mind, connect us to our most heartfelt desires and help us channel our divine energy. For example, if we set a new year’s resolution to give up eating sweets in order to lose weight and later find ourselves eating cupcakes, we might despair or consider our willpower weak. However, a sankalpa would expose our desire to loose weight at the root of what we’re aspiring to achieve: is it to overcome being stressed-out and depressed, looking good in a bathing suit, avoiding dangerous health risks? As we redirect the power of our conscious awareness to our primary intention, sankalpas liberate us to recognize contradictory feelings and impulses as natural experiences all on the path towards a healthier life. In the above example, your positive intention to be healthier could then embrace a balance of diverse lifestyle changes rather than hammering on the resolution of a rigorous diet alone.
Sankalpa are vows expressed in the present tense. They recast true effort for the future as if the intention is already fully achieved in this moment. Sankalpas thus free us from focusing on what we are doing wrong and instead focus us on acknowledging every moment as being continuously right.
SETTING YOUR SANKALPA IN THREE EASY STEPS
1. Create sacred space for introspection such as meditation, pranayama, and journaling. In your space ask yourself questions that only you know the answer to: How would you feel if all your desires for next year came true: where would you be, what will be added to your daily life, what will be taken away that can help you be happier, healthier, etc?
2. Cast each desired future reality as short sentence or phrase in the present tense for your sankalpa. Be mindful to keep theses phrases positive and eliminate fear-based words. For example, instead of writing “I will be a more loving being” recast it as “I am a loving being.”
3. Cultivate steadfast awareness on your sankalpa to employ it as a daily practice. Gently remind yourself that your intention is already here, or combine it throughout your meditation and pranayama practice, or as a mantra. In journaling, write it out multiple times, or write it down and place it on your bathroom mirror or even on your computer monitor.
Have patience and know you already have within you everything you need to fulfill your dharma. Deliberate, methodical and focused mindfullness on your sankalpa will help you manifest your most heartfelt desires through the divine energy within.
Enjoy the journey unfolding within and all around you!
Bea's article, Resolve to Evolve, first published on Gaiam in 2015
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