by Danielle Dickinson
A sankalpa can be thought of as a heartfelt desire or as a specific intention that both stem from a place of inner wisdom and aim to bring us towards our highest self. If you’ve ever heard your yoga teacher ask you to set a sankalpa at the beginning of class (Yoga Nidra is a practice where it’s traditionally done each time), they are referring to a vow that you resolve to set for yourself- something that is deeply personal and comes from a place of loving intention. When we think of new years resolutions, we often think of some big change. Sometimes these new years goals are ego driven with superficial reasons behind them. A sankalpa is formed by our heart-mind and is void of judgment. So, we can distinguish a sankalpa from a resolution because with a sankalpa practice there is a recognition that we already have inside of us that which we are seeking. We look beyond the what and the how by also seeking out the why behind our intention. This provides us with insight into our own selves- who we are and who we want to be at our deepest core.
A sankalpa should be made in the affirmative. And when reciting our sankalpa, we should use be using the present tense. As Richard Miller, PhD, a psychologist, author, and yogic scholar explains, “A sankalpa isn’t a petition or a prayer. It is a statement of deeply held fact, and a vow that is true in the present moment.” Instead of saying something like, “I will loose weight” or, “I will get in shape,” you might say something like, “I have respect for my body and I treat it well with nutritious food and healthy exercise.” Instead of saying, “I will start a yoga and meditation practice,” you could say, “I am healing my body and nourishing my mind.” More simply, if your intention is to be more loving, instead of saying “I will be more loving,” you’d recite to yourself, “I am loving.”
Void of ego, a sankalpa can take us towards our greatest potential. In the words of spiritual teacher and author, Sally Kempton, “When you make a true sankalpa, you call on the power of your personal will, and align your personal will with the cosmic will.” Because new years resolutions often have goals that stem from a place of ego, see if you can look to an affirming sankalpa instead. Let your heartfelt desires direct your dharma (living your true purpose). A new year doesn’t have to mean the need for a ‘new you,’ but it can encourage the wisdom to look within and foresee a better and attainable version of the same, wonderful you that was always there.