With the beginning of every new year, like clockwork, we find ourselves exposed to talk about New Year's Resolutions. Phrases like “radical transformation,” “personal growth,” and “spiritual development” are used often because they play on our nagging insecurities that we are not enough. Many yoga teachers use these terms to gloss over spiritual concepts that are hard to communicate in the brief anecdotes we thread into public classes.
However, yoga is not, nor has it ever been, about changing ourselves . According to yogic philosophy, we are already perfect . The work of yoga is to unmask that perfection, which is buried underneath the layers of societal labels that form our ego. Changing some of these superficial labels—going from “fat” to “skinny,” for example—does not change who we are; it only changes the illusion of who we are. Through the practice of yoga, instead of focusing on changing this superficial image, we chip away at it to reveal what is underneath: our true self.
This doesn’t mean we don’t make New Years Resolutions or set other goals. Recognition of our inherent adequacy, worthiness, and perfection is a powerful source of direction and motivation to shift how we show up in our day-to-day lives . Goals set from a foundation of self-realization are not about changing who we are, they are about expressing, coming into, and aligning with who we are. They aren’t about guilt, shame, or obligation; they are about purpose, passion, and freedom. They are created out of self love rather than out of self-loathing . In order to stay motivated to manifest goals and to feel a deep sense of fulfillment as we approach them, we must stay connected to our true, perfect selves and our deep sense of purpose. This is where sankalpa comes in.
Sankalpa is an intentional, heartfelt will or resolve . Sankalpa is a commitment to living such that we converge upon our divine purpose, purest desires, and spiritual liberation. It is personally formulated to inspire us to overcome, circumvent, or soften ourselves to our perceived barriers. Using the exercise below, you may be able to distill your sankalpa into a mantra that you can write in lipstick on your bathroom mirror, share with supportive loved ones, or simply repeat to yourself daily. Well-formulated New Years resolutions are specific, measurable, realistic goals broken down into steps with deadlines. Your sankalpa is the fire that ignites these goals. Reading, thinking, or reciting your sankalpa connects you of the deeper, purer intention underlying your goals. “I will exercise daily to look good in a bikini” will never be able powerful a goal as “I will exercise daily to cultivate strength, endurance, and confidence to fulfill my life’s purpose.”
Define Your Sankalpa
Get out a sheet of paper or open a text editor to prepare to answer the following questions. Before you begin, close your eyes and take 10 to 20 slow, deep belly breaths. Instead of carefully analyzing and thinking through your answers, allow them to flow freely from your intuition . They may take any form that makes sense to you. Write as much or as little as feels right—some of us need to write a lot to get past emotional white noise and mental chatter. Even if it’s just for the next few minutes, dwell in possibility . For the first two prompts, suspend ideas of “can’t,” “shouldn’t,” and “mustn’t” so you are not boxed in by potentially artificial constraints—you can come back and reevaluate with a rational mind later. Once you feel clear, calm, and open, begin:
Your sankalpa will shift as your life inevitably changes, so repeat this exercise regularly to refresh your resolve . Here are some examples of sankalpas that others have shared:
“I ask for support when I need it, receive it graciously.”
“I see all beings are an extension of myself.”
“I prioritize what is essential today.”
“I trust my intuition.”
“I am a force of nature.”
Please share your sankalpa in the comments below. We'd love to hear what you're manifesting for the new year!