Sankalpa is the practice of setting an intention which is formed in the heart and the mind. In Sanskrit, “san” means “connecting with the highest truth”, and “kalpa” means “promise” or “resolve”. It can be a vow or resolution that may be set at the beginning of each asana practice, or held in the heart as a larger intention for life going forward.
As I step on to my mat, I find it to be a beautiful way of focusing my mind and really becoming whole within myself. I ask: how does my heart speak to me today? What is the overriding feeling? What is it that I wish to honour or appreciate? Who could do with a little loving kindness or a few warm wishes today? How is my body feeling? Do I wish to focus on a particular posture, movement or way of being? What is my mind saying? Is there an overriding thought, something pressing that I want to express through my practice? Take time to settle into your body and really feel into the thoughts, feelings and sensations that it presents to you.
The beauty of sankalpa is that it will flow organically. Don’t worry if you don’t find a concrete intention emerging immediately. Sometimes, you may find that there are a few vague, nebulous sensations and thoughts but nothing that speaks clearly to you. It can be difficult to focus your mind initially. Particularly, as you start your practice and quieten yourself out of the everyday buzz of life. Breathe slowly and steadily to slow your thoughts down. Your sankalpa may shift during your practice. Allow it to flow. It takes time to cultivate sankalpa. It may take days, weeks or years for an intention that really resonates authentically with you to emerge.
Just notice the sensations, the feelings, the thoughts. Allow them to gather, settle and speak to you. Don’t judge yourself harshly if an intention isn’t appearing. Be kind to yourself. Discovering sankalpa is highly individual. Sit with the concept and allow it to grow to be real and authentic for you. The more you play with the idea and experiment, the more you may find that it assists you with your practice as a form of meditation, becoming a point to which you can return again and again throughout your practice and as you move off your mat. With habit, you may find that it focuses your attention, enhances your awareness and aids you in your day to day activities.
I am still discovering my sankalpa. I find it to be a great way of focusing my heart, mind and body, enhancing the meditative side of my practice and coming into a clearer awareness of myself.