As January is now in full swing the intention of New Year’s resolutions has the potential to dwindle if it hasn’t already. The problem with setting yourself a new year’s resolution on the first day of a brand new year is twofold. Firstly going cold turkey is tough when you may be feeling the effects of the 1st of January post celebration hangover and secondly as the Christmas tree twinkles in the background it’s easy to reach into the cupboard full of sweet treats and savoury snacks or whatever your vice is. This can lead to the resolution to be put off to the next week. Once we are back in the full swing of the rat race the resolution begins with full speed. We then hit the end of our first week back at work feeling tired and again can fall off that wagon of good intent.
In yoga we set many intentions for ourselves as we journey on rather than one large extreme resolution which is often challenging to sustain. We set an intention for our practice, we set an intention for the week ahead and we set an intention on a larger scale to encompass our life with a Sankalpa. These are usually small manageable goals that can propel us to be better people, to embrace self-care, live mindfully and to keep us focussed on our journey.
For me this year I have some large milestone goals to fulfil and in order to stay focussed and to support me on the road ahead I have opted to set aside the extreme unobtainable resolutions like giving up chocolate – that one is never going to happen for me and I’ve broken it a few times already! Instead I’ve opted to create a sustainable positive intention known as a Sankalpa. This may seem like a strange unknown word to a lot of people so let me explain.
A Sankalpa is a resolve or solemn vow to perform an intention. It consists of a short phrase that is clearly expressed in the first person, to focus on a goal and the same words are always used. It aims to bring out the best in us and always uses positive language. For example my Sankalpa is:
"I am at peace with myself"
The reason I have chosen this is that often I find fear gets in my way and I struggle with feelings of anxiety and unhelpful thoughts such as ‘I’m not good enough’. I have some large life changes heading my way this year which I’m incredibly excited about but also terrified. Fear has the potential to creep in and hinder my plans. This sankalpa affirms a positive state in my mind and enables fear to take a back seat while I get on with achieving my goals.
The wording “I am at peace with myself” works to serve us better than if I were to choose “I have no fear” a) because fear will always be present and it’s how we deal with fear that allows us to move forwards and b) by saying the word fear we are focussing our attention on the fear itself rather than on a positive state of being.
When creating a Sankalpa we should consider a phrase that incorporates one of the following purposes:
To reform a habit.
Improve the quality of life.
Create a change in our personality.
Realising what you want to achieve in life.
Focus on positive language in the present tense.
If your focus is to have a healthy balanced diet or to be free of illness or addiction then instead of saying “I am free of addiction” the Sankalpa “I achieve full health” affirms the positive state that we are striving for.
So I challenge you to set yourself a Sankalpa and when you meditate or sit quietly and breathe repeat it to yourself. This is not just for the New Year but for always, to stay focussed on your wider goals and create a mindful intention. So let’s set an intention now to let go of unobtainable resolutions at the start of the year but to keep creating smaller intentions for your day/week/month/practice/life etc and to create your own personal Sankalpa to repeat to yourself, as much as possible, on and off the mat.