Yoga Tools: Sankalpa, making a resolution that sticks.

October 22, 2015
Photo: Jen Brown

Every January, we make New Year’s Resolutions. We’re excited, we make big promises to ourselves and others, and we really mean it this time. 

And by mid-February, our promises have wilted.

An estimated forty percent of Americans make New Year’s Resolutions, but according to a research study from the University of Scranton, a mere eight percent of people who make them achieve their goals. Why?

The goals may be too big, such as losing a large amount of weight, or too vague, like “getting in shape” versus something specific, like training to walk an upcoming 5k. So are all our resolutions doomed?

Not at all—not when we change a resolution to a Sankalpa, or intention.

A Sankalpa is Yoga’s version of an intention, a cross between a resolution and a promise. What gives a Sankalpa more power than a resolution is the intention behind it:

It’s usually done with someone else in mind.

It’s easy enough to break promises to ourselves; we’re the only ones who may, or may not, suffer from it. We’re the only ones we have to answer to. A Sankalpa is an intention set on someone else’s behalf—even if it’s about you.

For example, you could set a Sankalpa to quit smoking for your children and pets. Thinking of them, and how much you love them and want the best environment for them, will give you the strength to keep from picking up another smoke. You could also think about how you being healthier benefits everyone around you.

This isn’t about thinking that you’ll let people down, but about how much happier you can make other people by taking whatever action it is you want to take that will create positive change.

The founder of Integral Yoga, Swami Satchidananda, told his students, “Don’t have the word impossible in your vocabulary. Stand up and make an affirmation; then your Sankalpa will be firm.”

A Sankalpa doesn’t need to wait until January 1; you can set a Sankalpa every day. It can be the same one, or a different one to address a specific need. Phrase it in a positive way, such as “I set an intention to treat my body like a temple today, and offer it the healthiest food I can.” Or, “Just for today, I set an intention not to smoke. I’ll take Deergha Swasaam breaks instead.”

Setting a Sankalpa is easy. All you have to do is say it to yourself. Write it down if you like, someplace you can see it—on your bulletin board, on a Post-It note stuck in your wallet, programmed as an alert into your phone that will come up hourly. Treat yourself with Maitri, kindness, and congratulate yourself for each step, large or small, that you take toward supporting your Sankalpa.

If you would like added support for your Sankalpa, visit the Spiritual Surfer Sangha on Facebook and post your Sankalpa there. I’ll send you good vibes and cheer you on.

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