We have been brought up in a society where we are taught to always run after something or the other, or, in other words, to have a goal.
In some cases, you might be pushed into having multiple goals, too.
Starting from a job interview where the recruiters look for a "goal-oriented" person to setting personal achievement deadlines such as losing weight or traveling to a new place, our lives have become full of goals.
This incessant goal-setting often does more harm than good.
How often have you set up a goal, only to realize that you couldn't get to it in time and got anxious and depressed about it?
Too many to count, isn't it?
Often, this anxiety about an impending failure sets in when you consider reaching the goal as everything to live for and you consider yourself not good enough until you get there.
Thankfully, in yoga, there is a more positive approach to setting goals.
The process is known as creating a "Sankalpa".
Read further to know more about the meaning of Sankalpa, a brief history of Sankalpa, and most importantly, how to create the right Sankalpa for yourself.
What is Sankalpa?
In Sanskrit, the word Sankalpa is broken down into two parts, 'San' and 'Kalpa', where 'Kalpa' means vow, and 'San' means connecting yourself with the highest truth.
Sankalpa means an intention or an inner resolve that allows your mind to commit yourself to your highest truth, or find the deepest meaning of your life.
Whereas a goal is about the result, Sankalpa is more about building a pathway to reach a certain milestone or the intention behind getting towards that goal.
The Origin of Sankalpa
According to age-old Indian scriptures, the meaning of Sankalpa originally was the "thought" that the human mind carries.
In historical Indian philosophy, Sankalpa, or the thoughts arising in a person's mind, were considered to be their greatest enemy.
The sages described Sankalpa as the thoughts that bind a person to materialistic desires, leaving them incapable of rising from misery.
Sankalpa included all sufferings, desires, anger, faults, ignorance, and so on, that constantly put a person's mind between intellect and free will.
With time, the meaning of Sankalpa evolved as being a will or a determination that becomes evident to a person when the mind is at rest.
In yoga, these two concepts of Sankalpa have been merged.
Sankalpa in yoga has more to do with some form of penance that is necessary to attain the determination needed to understand the deepest portions of your mind.
Through Yoga Nidra, it is believed that Sankalpa can be made firm and specific to what you wish to achieve, without it being an object of desire or misery.
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What Does Sankalpa Truly Mean?
The origin and the old scriptures about Sankalpa can be a bit confusing, which is why I am here to break down the true meaning of Sankalpa for you.
Let us take a simple illustration.
Imagine someone somewhere in a party called you overweight. You break down, and the next day, you decide to stop eating all kinds of fatty foods, give up desserts, etc.
Your goal is to lose weight in a month so that you look good in front of your peers again. In short, you view yourself as incomplete and probably even inferior.
This is the traditional way of setting goals. Now, let us see how Sankalpa differs.
When creating a Sankalpa, you resolve to become healthier and fitter. You do not fix a timeline but chalk out a realistic plan to get to that point of being fit.
You know that you are already a great person with many wonderful qualities and being fitter will only be another way of knowing yourself a bit better.
You set small milestones to reach that place of being fit, but instead of focusing on the result, you focus on the journey.
It may so happen that you take up a specific diet for a month but fail to adhere to it strictly.
Instead of worrying about straying from the diet, your Sankalpa helps you appreciate all that you have done so far in the diet and lets you learn from your mistakes.
A failure to achieve a goal might make you anxious and negative but when going through a Sankalpa, failing or winning does not matter anymore.
What matters is that you have a deeper understanding of your mind as you go through the experience.
How to Create a Sankalpa?
Okay, now that you know what Sankalpa is, you are probably thinking, "So, how do I go about creating a Sankalpa?"
Whether you have been to yoga sessions or are completely uninitiated in the yogic philosophy, creating Sankalpa might seem like climbing a mountain at first.
Most yoga teachers simply ask you to lie in Yoga Nidra (more on that later) and try to create a Sankalpa. It can be hard to achieve if you don't know the basics.
So, here it is. A simple guide on the steps to create a Sankalpa.
It starts by channelling your Sankalpa Shakti (the will power to create your resolve) and ends with Yoga Nidra, where you implant the Sankalpa deep into your mind through meditation.
Let us see how to go about the entire process:
1. The first step is to note down everything that your mind desires.
This can be a bit overwhelming so it is advisable to keep a pen and paper handy before you begin your yoga session.
For example, if you wish to be thin, you may jot down things like, "I want to stop eating cake", or "I want to exercise more".
2. Now comes the time to filter out noise. Of all the things you listed in step 1, you must focus on one or two that truly matter.
Those points that let you connect with your true self must be outlined in your mind.
3. Once you know what to focus on, give it a definite word, such as "good health". However, the beauty of Sankalpa is that it does not have to be defined by a word. It can also be defined as a color, a shape, a statement, an image, and emotion, etc.
Work with whatever makes you feel connected to your ultimate intention.
4. Next, engage your mind into believing that whatever you desire is something you already have.
So, if you are overweight and want to be fit again, tell your mind that it has already happened. Make your mind believe that you are fit, you are thin, you are healthy.
5. With a positive state of mind, get started with your yoga session, and ultimately move on to Yoga Nidra.
Yoga Nidra is a form of meditation where you implant the seed of your Sankalpa deep into your mind so that it becomes a part of your everyday life. In Yoga Nidra, your mind relaxes and opens up to new possibilities.
You become aware of your deepest thoughts and emerge clearer about your Sankalpa. This is why Yoga Nidra Sankalpa is the best way to form an intention with will power.
6) The last and the most important step is to continue to keep your Sankalpa in mind in whatever activity you take up during your day.
Be mindful of your Sankalpa and never let it fade away.
Keep on your Sankalpa path and continue to learn from the journey.
Changes will come, the road will wind, fork, and divide into confusing lanes, but do not lose the positivity that you had defined in step 4.
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Types of Sankalpa in Yoga
Remember when I told you that you don't have to be a word wizard to define your Sankalpa?
Now, why is that?
That is because a Sankalpa is much more than a word. It is a way to connect with your inner self and sometimes, words are not the only way, nor are they enough to achieve that feat.
So, what are the different types of Sankalpa in yoga?
There may be many, but let us look at the more common ones:
Your Sankalpa might be represented by a specific color.
This could be a color that signifies a specific chakra in your being, where a chakra is an energy center in your body.
Your Sankalpa might be as simple as just focusing on your breath.
Breathing is an important aspect of yoga and focusing on it is an integral part of understanding the deeper mind.
Creating a Sankalpa needs focus and attention. But the Sankalpa itself can be about focus.
If you are too distracted about everything around you all the time, finding focus and being mindful is one type of Sankalpa you may define.
Usually, Sankalpa tends to be about yourself, but there is one type of Sankalpa where you get to do something for others.
Suppose you wish to send recovery wishes to an ill family member.
You can define your Sankalpa as the energy that flows between you and that person through your love for that person.
Often in our day to day rush in reaching places of make-belief success, we forget to stop and understand our inner selves, resulting in negativity, despair, and feelings of failure.
While setting goals is important in life, it is recommended to not get lost in the maze of rat races.
Pause and understand the intention of your life, instead. Define this intention or inner resolve, which is known as Sankalpa.
Learn to create your Sankalpa by believing something that you desire, to have already happened.
For example, if you are anxious, tell yourself that you are at peace.
Let this positive Sankalpa Shakti flow through your mind and your deeper consciousness.
Give your Sankalpa a shape, a name, a color, or another form that makes you comfortable.
Finally, let the effects of your Sankalpa bear fruits in your mind as you plant its seeds through Yoga Nidra.
Remember, as with Sankalpa, in every sphere of life, what matters is the knowledge you gain from the journey, and whether you succeed or fail in your ultimate goal is of less importance.