Setting a Sankalpa: Intention

In yoga, a sankalpa is a strong intention, Usually in service of someone else. That doesn’t mean that you can’t set a sankalpa for yourself, because more often than not, what benefits you will have a positive effect on others. You might set an intention to quit smoking or start exercising three times a week for the benefit of someone you love and who loves you; your being healthier will make them happier. You can set a sankalpa to manage your work hours differently so you can spend more time with your children, for them as well as for you. Now you’ve probably figured out the true power behind the sankalpa, what makes it so effective and gives it fuel to last: love. We may give up easily on promises made to our self, but we are far more likely to keep a promise that will help someone or something we care about deeply.

When teaching yoga asanas, the physical postures, an instructor will make adjustments with the gentlest touch possible. Here, as well, an attitude of gentleness will bring about the most positive, least painful changes. For example, hardcore workout regimens are often quickly abandoned because they’re just too brutal. But you’re more likely to stick with a form of fitness you enjoy, even if it takes longer to show results, because you look forward to it.

With this gentle attitude in mind, close your eyes and let your awareness rest on your breathing for a few moments. Allow yourself to consider parts of your life where you’d like to cultivate positive change, and then the good these changes might bring to others. If you’d like to start a fitness program, think of the joy your family would feel about your being healthier and living longer. If you’d like to get a new job, think of the benefit your skills could bring to a company that needs them. When your intentions are for the good of others, you can easily see how what is helpful to you would be helpful to them. It’s a win-win.

Now imagine those benefits rippling outward. Your actions have a ripple effect – sometimes seen, sometimes not, yet all important.

Now compose your sankalpa, using positive, encouraging language, and set it by writing it down. If you wish, you can turn this practice into a Puja, or spiritual ceremony, by lighting a candle, placing flowers on the table where you write, and adding a photo of a person for whom you’re creating this sankalpa.

Your written sankalpa can be as short as a single sentence or as long as a paragraph. You don’t need to go into great detail. The divine light within your heart knows the truth of your intention.

Author Suzan Colonyoga mind

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