Understanding Sankalpa संकल्प

In Sanskrit, Sankalpa is Yogic philosophy that refers to a “heart’s desire.”  It is similar to a resolution, although it is deeper and more spiritual, coming from the core of your being; a true, internal desire and intention.  

I don’t know about you, but every New Year’s I make my own resolutions and every year they are usually the same. In spite of my action planning, nearly a year has passed where my flossing schedule is still intact come February.  Maybe next year.

Sankalpa is different from a resolution. A Sankalpa is derived from a yearning deep within yourself; a thought, feeling, desire. I can’t say as much as I appreciate my teeth and gums, that I have a deep yearning for flossing. Certainly I know I should, I feel obligated and compelled - but I’m not drawn to it. 

Therein lies the difference. A Sankalpa is something that you really, really want to do, change, think about, give energy to, pray for, devote yourself to. 

“San” means connection with the highest truth and “Kalpa” means vow. Your Sankalpa may be simple or complex. It may be your asana practice for the day. It may be the health of a loved one. Your Sankalpa could be cultivating your own self confidence and self worth, or finding inner peace and acceptance. Whatever it is, once you give it energy, it grows. Having a Sankalpa gives you purpose, but is not ego driven. Reflect how you word your Sankalpa in your mind:

“Peace is my nature” instead of “I want peace in my life.”

Any day is a perfect day to set a Sankalpa, and you can have more than one. We often use the New Year because it is familiar to us, as with resolutions.  But it doesn’t have to be a new year, or a new month or even a new week.  Any day, any hour, any moment you choose - that’s your time.

With Kapha season approaching, it’s out with the old and stagnant and in with fresh, light, and new. We shed excess accumulated Vata from winter and usher in clear, clean energy. 

Spring is a time to renew, begin, rebirth, and start over… from fresh, raw ground - literally. The elements of Water and Earth govern Kapha, and such, we balance that with light and dry. Astringent, pungent, and sour foods dominate and we may feel better lightening up our diet. We kick up our activity and add vigor and heat.  While autumn and winter are natural times to rest and restore, the long-awaited spring is a period for activity, growth, and liberation. So as we detoxify our bodies and dispel Ama, excess water, and cleanse ourselves inside and out, the spring equinox offers us the chance to simultaneously cultivate and dedicate our mental energy.   

Yoga and Sankalpa

Sankalpa can be used every time before we begin our Yoga practice. The practice of Sankalpa, in Yoga, allows us to set an intention - to ask ourselves “what do we want to give energy to?” Because our thoughts are energy and the more energy we give to anything, the more power that “thing”, idea, or thought accumulates.

It’s easy to arrive on your mat with thoughts of work, a spat with a friend or partner, or worries of unfinished projects you need to complete. But when your eyes fall closed, the breathing slows, and your body begins to flow, the magic begins. 

If you create a Sankalpa before you start your practice - then you can devote all the energy you accumulate during your practice towards that intention. It can be a very powerful experience. Then take that with you off your mat.  If the rest of your day falls apart (because you can’t control the world around you), you still have your practice, your intention, your Sankalpa.