Setting our intention or Sankalpa is an integral part of our yoga practice. It guides us towards what we want to create and shows us that we can manifest our desires and aspirations.
But what really is our Sankalpa?
First, let’s break down the word itself:
“San” means “linked to highest consciousness or Divine Truth.”
“Kalpa” means “vow, dedication, promise, commitment.”
Discovering a divine Truth that exists within yourself must be continually rediscovered. Our practice is not about reaching an end goal and then being done with it. It is a lifelong cultivation of Truths that requires nurturing within all modalities.
A Sankalpa is something that resonates within your body and soul and can be applied to all different parts of your life. It is not just intended to accompany your practice on the mat but rather seeks to guide your purpose off the mat as well.
Now that we’ve established what our Sankalpa’s purpose is – to provide us continual direction – let’s get clearer about our intentions as they affect us on and off our mat.
An intention is a direction that allows us to learn, taking detours without judgment, and ultimately noticing where we are. If we find ourselves on a detour, we can always pull ourselves away to choose a new direction toward our Sankalpa.
In this way, our intention is not something we judge. It does not trigger any conflicting voices in our minds and does not make us harder on ourselves for taking these detours.
The mind will naturally wander. This is not something we are attempting to get rid of. Rather, our intention recognizes our mind’s tendency to drift and gently guides it back to the path we have created for ourselves.
With goals and resolutions, we can feel conflicted when we do not meet their expectations. We may find ourselves going down a spiral of shame and negativity, seeking out other ways to overcompensate for our supposed failures.
This conflict can manifest within our bodies as well. If we put too much pressure on what we deem perfect, this makes it harder for us to untangle those negative emotions and discover our true Sankalpa.
Instead, our Sankalpa aims to work at the subtlest layers of our being through intention without conflict or judgment. If detours are taken, we are gently guided back to the path we have created for ourselves with empathy and compassion.
With this in mind, you might be wondering how it is to set a meaningful intention.
These next ten steps will help you focus in on what it is you truly aspire to be and open you up to new possibilities that can guide your intention and Sankalpa.
#1 Set a Time and Place
- Setting a time and place for your practice can allow you to focus on your meditation away from distractions
- Good places to cultivate your Sankalpa may be out in nature, at night time before, or in the morning before or after your yoga practice
- Make sure that this space feels safe for you to explore all possibilities
- You can always return to this space if you feel like you need to reassess your intention
- Try setting a timer to allow yourself to really commit to the moment and be present within it
- This way, your mind will not wonder about how much time has passed
- Your meditation practice will allow your mind and consciousness to be open to new possibilities
- This practice of openness and serenity will ultimately allow you to identify what intention you want to cultivate for yourself
- You are in charge of the restrictions you set on your mind
- Over time, your focus will shrink smaller and smaller until you are present in the moment
#3 Be Present
- A meaningful Sankalpa comes from a willingness to be present
- When we are present, we allow ourselves to sense everything that comes up, including all of the inner noise that can cloud our mind
- If we stick with that inner noise, eventually the fog will lift and reveal valuable information that will help inform our Sankalpa
- Sometimes that inner noise can feel overwhelming and prompt us to spiral into a pattern of shame and negativity
- If you find your mind taking a detour, gently guide it back to its central focus
- Be sure to express compassion and empathy towards yourself
- Your mind will wander so don’t reprimand it for doing so
#4 Focus Your Intention on You
- When you are ready to focus on creating an intention, make sure that it is about you
- Your intention is about the core of your being, something that can only be manifested within the body and soul that you have nurtured
- Ask yourself the following questions to help you come to a meaningful answer when creating your intention:
- What is the highest expression of yourself?
- How do you want to be in this world?
- What makes you light up and feel alive?
- What does inner peace look like for you?
- How will you cultivate that inner peace to make it fit your needs?
- What makes you feel at home within yourself?
- How will you make this house into a home?
#5 Let It Resonate Within You
- Once you find the right intention, you will feel it immediately
- It will resonate throughout your entire being and will feel right
- It should create a sense of expansion within your body and increase your capacity to feel vibrations moving through you
- If you do not come to this immediately, don’t worry
- Listen to small vibrations as you explore the different parts of yourself
- Follow the vibrations to lead you to greater ones
- Allow your body and mind to be open to all possibilities
- Do not limit yourself
#6 If You’re Having Trouble, Ask Yourself What It Is That You Truly Want From This Short and Precious Life?
- Sometimes, identifying your Sankalpa can be a longer journey
- Do not fret if you are having trouble
- Again, this can lead to a spiral of shame and negativity which hinders your aspirations and intentions even more
- Allow compassion and empathy to guide you in this journey and do not try to quicken the pace of discovering your Sankalpa
- Try embracing the following prompts to help center your intention:
- What are things that make you light up and feel alive?
- What makes your heart sing?
- Do more of what you love and allow yourself to be more YOU
- Where do you feel the most at home within yourself?
- Where do you feel the most at home within your surroundings?
- Allow yourself to BE without judgment or shame
- You are aligning your intention within your body and mind by creating a deep and profound tie between your inner self and your desired direction
- Intention lies beyond what the body can feel or what the mind can understand
- Your intention is ultimately knowing that things will eventually fall into place
#7 Keep It Simple and Concise
- Keeping your intention simple and concise makes it easier to recall in any given circumstance
- If words don’t work for you, start by making your intention an image or sense
- After all, your intention is something that is specifically designed for you and by you
- Explore the different kinds of senses you can embody including sight, smell, touch, sound, or taste
- Your intention is anything that works for you but should ultimately be something you can recall easily
- It will be something that centers you whether you are in your yoga practice or not
- Whether you are in a crowded grocery store or any kind of overwhelming setting, your Sankalpa should be easily accessible to you to provide comfort and lightness
#8 Phrase Your Intention Positively and in the Present Tense
- Your intention should be a statement of truth even if it is something you don’t fully believe in yet
- It may be an aspiration or something you would like to embody
- Don’t worry if you are not embodying that truth yet
- As you start to cultivate it as a truth in your mind, you will direct your attention and energy towards your intention, manifesting it within yourself
- Try not to focus on negative statements as negativity does not motivate us
- Positivity can motivate us to change and transform into something better
- Focus on what you want rather than what you don’t want, or focus on what you want to create rather than what you don’t want to create
- A good example of a meaningful Sankalpa is: “I am at peace”
- A poor example of a negative Sankalpa is: “I want to be more happy”
- Direct your energy where you want it to go and allow yourself to explore all the possibilities within your newfound intention
#9 Translate Your Messages
- In your Sankalpa does not come to you in the form of words, try translating them into words and write them down
- Again, your Sankalpa is anything that works for you whether that be an image or a different kind of sense
- But try exploring these messages and use this translation as an exercise
- Words are also an easy way to recall your Sankalpa
- You can ruminate on them throughout your practice and find different meaning within the various settings you recall your intention within
- Allow it to be a concise phrase that remains open to all possibilities of expression and don’t be afraid to explore its many meanings
#10 Remember That You Are Your Sankalpa
- While your Sankalpa is a mantra and focal point, it is not merely a 30-second practice that you let go of
- It is a part of you, always
- It is free to be within you throughout the day and not just relegated to your practice on the mat
- Practice the same Sankalpa consistently rather than creating a new intention each time
- This will allow you to explore your Sankalpa in all modalities and apply it to every facet of your life as it guides you closer to yourself
- Ruminate on it to explore all of the possible meanings within and be open to different translations that may arise
- Ultimately trust in your Sankalpa
- Your Sankalpa is you and requires the same compassion and empathy you give to others
- It’s time to give that same love to yourself
Final Tips for Creating a Meaningful Sankalpa
Don’t worry if you’re struggling to find your Sankalpa. These discoveries take time and the process of finding them cannot be rushed.
Ultimately, explore your happiness in different modalities and identify what factors into your happiness across multiple settings.
When you allow yourself to trust in your own being without shame or judgment, you allow yourself a sense of freedom that can only be granted by you.
As we evolve and change within various settings and periods within our life, our Sankalpa can remain a foundational source for our continued practice to cultivate love and empathy towards our own inner light.
Allow yourself to be open to all vibrations within the universe even when you are not practicing yoga. Your Sankalpa may appear to you in a setting you might not expect. Do not be afraid of its presence.
If it occurs to you in an unexpected setting, consider the factors surrounding that experience. Did something make you feel particularly happy or at home? What prompted your Sankalpa to reveal itself at that moment?
Don’t be afraid to ask yourself some hard questions. Your Sankalpa is an effortless source of light but that does not mean the journey to discovering it is easy.
Recognize the ways in which you may be closing yourself off to certain possibilities and challenge yourself to examine those wounds openly and without judgment.
Your Sankalpa can only come from within you. Don’t ask others to inform your intentions.
While it may feel like a lonely process to begin, its benefits are beyond rewarding in your development towards enlightenment and inner peace.
What's Your Reaction?
As a trained yoga professional and Ayurvedic practitioner, Donna goes far beyond just writing about holistic concepts. With your health and wellness in mind, she happily provides an abundance of thoughtful and well-written information.