A New Year for many of us is a time to stop and reflect on our lives. We look at our accomplishments and our failings from the past year and set resolutions for change over the year to come. Amazingly, studies show that only about 35% of people that set a resolution will make it past the first month! Many of us try to bring about change in our lives by sheer force of will, muscling our way through our New Year’s resolutions. And if it doesn’t happen, we give up. Hence we see the familiar pattern of setting New Year’s resolutions only to abandon them shortly thereafter.
The yoga tradition offers an alternative to the typical New Year’s resolution: the practice of sankalpa. Sankalpa is a Sanskrit word which broadly speaking means resolve. San refers to a connection with the highest truth and kalpa means vow. Sankalpa then, is a vow we make to support our highest truth. It differs in meaning from the traditional New Years’ resolution, in that it extends far deeper. A sankalpa should support and honor the deeper meaning of our lives, our dharma – our overriding purpose for being.
Your specific sankalpa will describe what you need to do, and where you need to direct your energy, to move towards your larger life goals. Instead of merely stating what you wish to change, look deeper for the root of the desire and try to find a fuller understanding of your ultimate goal. Ask yourself, “Why do I wish to change that habit or part of my life?” “What will my life look like when I achieve success?” To get to that deeper purpose work with whatever goal arises, but then ask yourself what’s underneath it. For example, a New Year’s resolution may be “I will quit smoking”, while a similar sankalpa may be “I take care of my body and enjoy being healthy and strong”.
Sankalpa takes the form of a short, positive and clear statement said in the present tense .The wording should be precise and clear and should speak to your greater goal and who you are as a person. This practice works best when the statement genuinely connects with your inner voice and the wisdom within your heart. If your goal is to lose weight, reflection may bring you to a sankalpa of “I live a healthy life as a compassionate role model for my family”
Sankalpa is best practiced during Gentle, Restorative Yoga or meditation. When the mind is open and empty the sankalpa can more easily take root in the subconscious mind. It’s helpful to make a written note of your sankalpa as a reminder so that the sequence of words stays the same each time you repeat them. Keep in mind that time is required for the sankalpa to take effect and results will depend on your sincerity and heart felt desire to achieve your goal.
Credits to: Hanaq Prana Yoga Studio.