by Lily Dwyer
Virtually every class I teach, I ask my students to take a moment and set their sankalpa (Sanskrit for purpose) before we begin our practice. This is a foundational, vital part of practice, and also a fantastic opportunity for you – the yogi! So, in case you are wondering what this means, or why we do this, or simply want to clarify your own sankalpa, I will try to break things down a little.
Why: Setting an intention is a powerful way to harness the energy of your practice towards your highest purpose. Just as we work with the alignment of our joints and muscles in yoga asana, we can also align our spirit through sankalpa.
What: The possibilities are limitless… For example: May I transcend my ego and interact from a space free of fear and full of love? May I speak and act with the utmost clarity? May my actions nurture the freedom and happiness of all beings on this planet? May I embrace myself for exactly who I am in this moment and celebrate all other beings for who they are in this moment? May I be an open channel for the healing powers of the universe? …you get the picture. One way to find your sankalpa is by practicing Yoga Nidra to see what comes up for you from the state of feeling relaxed and at peace with yourself.
Often the effects of societal, familial, or political conditioning can discourage us from having courage to follow the path of our true sankalpa. This is why I recommend you clarify your sankalpa by coming into a feeling sense of the bodymind. Then you can write down what comes up for you and sit with the sankalpa that feels most true. Find a concise way to express it, a single phrase that emphasizes the process of your intention rather than an end result. Your sankalpa has the power to stir your heart energy and ground your deepest sense of self. It should resonate with your core, stand resilient to patterns of self doubt, and become something that is clearly worded and easy to recall during yoga practice. Last, I personally believe it is most powerful to keep your sankalpa to yourself – as your own luminous secret.
How: We align with sankalpa before we move into physical posture. Then we recall this sankalpa as we awaken from the state of deep relaxation in savasana. Savasana produces an equalization of awareness throughout the entire bodymind – our energy is no longer gravitating towards one strong thought or sensation, but we experience complete balance of both our physical and mental energies. This state of equalization provides the perfect environment to realign with one’s highest intention. You may notice that the more you connect to sankalpa from this state of being, the more you live by sankalpa, the more any unhealthy behaviors towards yourself or others that you have worked so doggedly in the past to modify, fall away organically.