If you’re a regular yogi, you may be wondering why you haven’t heard the word ‘Sankalpa’ before. As it relates to a particular style of yoga, it’s unlikely to crop up during your weekly Hatha class. The term is best explained as a resolve or intention that is made during the practice of Yoga Nidra. Sankalpa takes the form of a short phrase or sentence, clearly expressed using the same wording each time. The intention of the phrase is to bring a positive change to one’s life. To use Sankalpa, all you need is a quiet mind and some comfortable yoga clothes. In this article, we explore Sankalpa in more detail.
Sankalpa is a Sanskrit term in yogic philosophy that refers to a resolve to do something. Expressed in a short phrase or sentence, it can also be described as an intention, a solemn vow, or a heartfelt desire. Though it’s similar to the English concept of resolution, Sankalpa comes from even deeper within and is expressed as an affirmation.
The word itself comes from the Sanskrit terms ‘San’, meaning “a connection with the highest truth” and ‘Kapla’, meaning “vow”. With this in mind, the concept can be explained as an affirming resolve to achieve something spiritual. When used correctly, Sankalpa can be used to achieve enlightenment.
While Sankalpa is similar to a goal, it’s slightly different. A goal is a personal need to accomplish something, whereas Sankalpa uses one’s inner-self to connect with the heart’s highest intention. A goal can be explained as an individual’s will, while Sankalpa is the universal will. A goal is often driven by the ego and is expressed as something you want. For instance, if your goal is to achieve happiness, you may express it as “I want happiness in my life”. A Sankalpa, on the other hand, is expressed as a positive affirmation, such as “happiness is my true nature”.
A Sankalpa is most effective during Yoga Nidra, a yoga style that is often known as ‘Yogic Sleep’. During this practice, yogis enter a deep state of relaxation. While the mind is deeply relaxed, the Sankalpa can be written on the subconscious. As well as using the affirmation during Yoga Nidra, however, it may be repeated in the morning, before meditation, or at the beginning of asana practice.
When used during meditation, it’s often accompanied by Sankalpa mudra. This hand gesture connects both sides of the brain to allow the mind, body, and spirit to work cooperatively. To use Sankalpa mudra, place your left hand palm-up on your right thigh. Next, place your right hand on top of your left with your palm facing down. When this has been done, you’re ready to repeat your personal Sankalpa.
Translated as yogic sleep, Yoga Nidra is designed to relax the body and mind and supercharge your intuition. The five-step process begins with a body scan to engage the mind. It then incorporates meditation of the breath, the balancing of emotional states, visualization, and self-healing. Another important step is to set a positive intention or a Sankalpa.
Many yogis believe that the main purpose of Yoga Nidra is to realize one’s personal Sankalpa. When used correctly, Sankalpa helps the mind to focus and achieve a chosen goal. It is designed to awaken your inner willpower by uniting the conscious awareness with the unconscious.
There are two forms of Sankalpa. The first is known as “the heartfelt desire” and is expressed as a statement that reflects your true nature. Requiring no change or action, the heartfelt desire is purely a statement of who you are. For instance, it may be expressed as “I am already whole” or “I am happiness itself”. According to yogic philosophy, it doesn’t come from the conscious mind. Instead, it comes from deep within us and is key to discovering who we ultimately are. When said aloud, the Sankalpa informs the conscious mind of the direction we need to take in our life.
The second form focusses on a specific intention or goal. Certified yoga instructor, Brenna Geehan, explains that the process may be slow. “After discovering your purpose, not everything happens all at once. To live your soul’s mission, you need to reach milestones.” Setting specific goals can help to connect your conscious choices with your unconscious. To do this, ask yourself what things need to happen for you to progress on your path. Once you’ve realized this, form a personal Sankalpa that describes what you need to do. Inform your subconscious where you need to direct your energy to make progress on your goals.
To discover your Sankalpa, you first need to listen. Your heartfelt desire is hidden deep within, waiting to be heard, seen, and felt. Unlike a goal, it’s not something you can make up and decide during the moment. Instead, you need to turn inward and listen to your heart.
Discovering your Sankalpa is a three-step listening process. The first step, Sravana, is the willingness to hear the heartfelt desire. As listening to the heart requires courage and a quiet mind, it is best achieved through meditation. The second step, Mañana, is the act of welcoming the desire in. When you hear the message, you must be willing to welcome it into your conscious mind. The final stage, Nididhyasana, is the willingness to act upon the heartfelt desire. Once you hear the message, you must be willing to take action to achieve it.
When used correctly, Sankalpa can help us to achieve our inner desires and reach enlightenment. To start the process, all you need is a quiet mind. While Yoga Nidra is a great way to achieve this, meditation can work just as well. For best results, it’s important to be comfortable. Before getting started, set up your mat in a quiet space and change into some comfortable yoga sweatpants.