Updated: Feb 22, 2019
"There are many strands and gems in yoga that help to unlock the potential of body, mind and spirit.We have asana practice that moves and stretches our body, the Yamas and Niyamas that help guide us to live life with consciousness; meditation to be in stillness and pranayama to harness the breath. One of the most useful yogic tools I have found helpful to draw inspiration from, is the positive seed of Sankalpa".
In this busy, fast paced life and high stress-levels that we encounter daily, (which seems to be the norm), we can feel over-whelmed and engulfed by the demands of life. It is easy to feel split and disconnected from our own vital needs. What is it that we crave and have a longing for? How can we connect to the inherent desire for happiness, peace, and love that gives us an enriched experience of life? In short, how can we live a life fulfilled?
There are many strands and gems in yoga that help to unlock the potential of body, mind and spirit. We have asana practice that moves and stretches our body, the Yamas and Niyamas that help guide us to live life with consciousness; meditation to be in stillness and pranayama to harness the breath. One of the most useful yogic tools I have found helpful to draw inspiration from, is the positive seed of Sankalpa.
Yoga holds the view that essentially, our true nature is balanced and that we have everything within us to feel happy, safe and secure. Though we may look for happiness outside ourselves, there is no amount of “retail therapy”, person or thing outside of us that will satisfy the search for inner peace and equanimity. When we are challenged by adverse situations that may throw confusion and suffering our way, we are pushed to our limits, re-acting from self-limiting beliefs that can block us from experiencing our full potential. Challenges and pain can offer us opportunities for growth, understanding and transformation. Sankalpa is a tool to accessing our own innate wisdom, resilience and strengths.
The word Sankalpa is a Sanskrit word (Sanskrit being one of the oldest languages known to mankind and is the language of yoga), which translates as a vow or oath to self and derives from the ancient Indian scriptures, known as the Vedas. Forming a Sankalpa, or resolve, is about creating an intention that has purpose and motivation that comes from a heart-felt desire. An intention is like a positive affirmation made and said in the present tense that has the power to harness untapped potential.
Distinct from making a New Year’s resolution that is made once a year, usually homing in on a negative aspect of self such as, to lose weight, get fit, or stop smoking. It has been researched and reported that 80% of resolutions are unfulfilled. What usually follows from this feeling of “failure” is the guilt of not having been able to actualise and see this resolution through. Setting a Sankalpa is like taking goal-setting to a deeper level of awareness, it can give us direction and focus on a more holistic level of being.
We can use a sense of self-compassion to acknowledge where we are and use a Sankalpa that encourages growth and progression that aligns with our true nature. It can serve well for short-term as well as long-term goals and be made using the feeling centre such as "I feel deeply centred, happy and at ease within my own skin. " or the will centre, “I am deeply centred, happy and at ease within my own skin”. Words have power whether they are positive or negative.
We are not merely plucking aspirations out of thin air, but connecting to our inner - most truth and heart-felt desires. Time and space is required to connect and go within. When we are relaxed, open and receptive, Sankalpa penetrates the subconscious mind, which can be better accessed through meditation and yoga practice or simply sitting in stillness and connecting within. This is when the intention, like a potent seed, can embed itself and take root. The Sankalpa can be in any league, big or small, or as a means of directing oneself towards greater aspirations ie., as in to become a photographer, actor or building our own house.
At times when we lose our way, we can set a Sankalpa and sow positive seeds in the fertile ground of the mind, accessing the potential to awaken heart and soul. Once planted, the Sankalpa serves as a compass that guides and connects us back on the path. When we notice that we are feeling under pressure, we can use awareness to stop, pause, breathe and recall the Sankalpa, slowly repeating the Sankalpa, ie. “Life supports me and all is well in my world”. The calm repetition of the Sankalpa in the mind-space helps to reset oneself to a place of balance, peace and calm.
With focus and intent, great things manifest as we aspire to do something of value that shapes our lives. This transpires in experiencing a heightened quality from day to day. A quote from Paramahansa Yogananda says, “When you are able to employ your will always for constructive purposes, you become the controller of your destiny”. We might have ambitions as yet unrealised, perhaps an underlying secret yearning for new challenge and discovery. Perhaps we don’t yet have the confidence, trust or self-belief to bring these desires to fruition. It is the clarity of intention in our mind and hearts that are the stepping-stones towards realising our inner most desires. There is a saying, “Where are intention goes, our energy flows”. If we don’t have clear intention, then our energy becomes disparate and dissipated.
How to set a Sankalpa
This is a potent way to begin your yoga/meditation practice or simply to start your day when you wake up.
Be sure to be sitting or lying comfortably in a quiet space where you will be undisturbed. Take a slow breath in through the nose and soft exhalation out through the mouth and repeat a few times, until you feel settled and connected.
Let your awareness move slowly from head to toe, gently scanning and navigating through all levels of being: mind, body, emotions and spirit. Become aware of any thoughts and feelings that arise. You may also wish to consider your day ahead and the energy, attitude, qualities that would serve you well. As you shine the light of awareness on the self, your Sankalpa emerges into light.
Sankalpa as a Meditation
You can use your Sankalpa that you have set for the day or create one especially as a focus for your meditation. Take time to consider and create your aspiration. Choose three positive words of power and formulate your intention.
Repeat your intention to yourself three times on the inhalation to absorb it fully.
Like a mantra focus on each positive word, breathe the meaning of the word in as you say it in your mind. Exhale and say the word as you breathe out. Repeat this a few times. Then move on to the next word and so on.
Example: I feel calm, relaxed and at peace
Breathe in, “calm”, breathe out “Calm”.
Breathe in “relax” , breathe out “Relax”
Breathe in, “Peace”, breathe out “Peace”
This is a powerful and creative process and the above suggestion is only a guide. Be creative and formulate your meditation according to what feels natural. As you lay these strong foundations, you can return to your Sankalpa time and again. Be vigilant and notice the effects, thoughts and feelings your Sankalpa produces. Enjoy and have fun!