A sankalpa is a Sanskrit word that is translated as “purpose, will or determination.” Setting a sankalpa is the Yogic equivalent of making a New Year’s resolution. However, a sankalpa differs from a New Year’s resolution. A sankalpa, or chosen goal or course of action, ideally supports one’s own worth, dignity and dharma or unique contribution to the world. Many Yoga practices helped us to get into touch with the divinity that resides at the core of our own hearts. When we pick a sankalpa, or guiding purpose for the year to come, it is important that the chosen goal be in alignment with the knowledge that we are all sparks of divinity. Additionally, it is important to choose a sankalpa that supports our understanding of our own individual dharma in the world.
One way to clearly define a chosen goal or sankalpa for the year to come is to contemplate the result of following through on the sankalpa you have chosen. For example, if you have decided that learning Sanskrit will help your own spiritual growth, and learning the language will also help you to offer deeper spiritual wisdom to your Yoga students, implementing this sankalpa may indeed help you to more fully offer your own unique skills and talents to the world around you. On the other hand, if you decide your sankalpa will be to hone your ability how to practice Yoga inversion postures without the support of a wall before you are prepared to do so, you may end up undermining your ability to offer your unique abilities and skills to the world if you injure yourself by falling on your head!
One of the first steps to clarifying a sankalpa for the coming year is to calm and quiet the fluctuations of the mind. According to Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras, this is one of the primary goals of any Yoga practice. There are many techniques for quieting the vrittis or thought waves of the mind. A very effective way of quieting the mind is to practice pranayama exercises. There are a number of different breathing exercises that will all help to quiet, cleanse and purify the mind. Dirga Pranayama is a very accessible breathing exercise that will help to calm down the entire body by balancing the nervous system, in addition to quieting the mind. When the mind and body are calm and clear, it is much easier to wisely define a sankalpa for the year.
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