Sankalpa or Resolution

Developing conscious intent

Sankalpa (संकल्प) is a conception, idea or notion formed in the heart or mind that leads to a resolve or vow to act, a determination to perform, a definite intention, volition or will. In relation to yoga, it is a chosen resolution made during the practice of Yoga Nidra.

It is a process of training the mind to develop trust and faith in yourself and provide a direction for your whole life – if you use it wisely. Its effect is to awaken the willpower within, by uniting the conscious awareness with the unconscious forces, lying dormant. It takes the form of a short phrase or sentence, clearly and concisely expressed – using the same wording each time, to bring about a positive change in one’s life.

The purpose of Sankalpa is to influence and transform the whole life pattern, not only the body, but also the mind, the emotions, and the spiritual forces. These forces are normally dissipated by inner conflicts, or confusion, or by various external demands and responsibilities of life. Sankalpa is a tool to focus the energy, the Prana – the life force, so that it becomes like a laser beam.

The yoga tradition offers a refreshing alternative to the New Year’s resolution: the practice of Sankalpa. It is a commitment you make to support your highest truth and takes the form of a statement that reflects your true nature, your “heartfelt desire.” Sankalpa has the potential to release tremendous power by clearly defining and focusing on a chosen goal. Its effect is to awaken the willpower within by uniting the conscious awareness with the unconscious forces lying dormant. It takes the form of a short phrase, sentence, or even an image, clearly and concisely expressed, to bring about a positive change in one’s life. Discovering your sankalpa is a process of listening. Your heartfelt desire is already present, waiting to be seen, heard, and felt.

Spend some time reflecting on these four questions:

  • What is something I really want in my life?
  • What is the most important goal in my life right now?
  • What should I be devoting my energy and resources to?
  • What is my biggest dream for myself and my life?

Though the Sankalpa is one – in order to recognize the deepest quality of Sankalpa, we may have to go through some of the stages along the way, like stepping-stones across a river – each step within reach of the previous one.

It can be described into four stages:

(I) The reforming of bad habits
(II) Improving the quality of life and living
(III) Creating a real change within our personality
(IV) Realizing what we are trying to achieve in this life

The choice of the kind of Sankalpa we make is very important and should always aim to bring out the best within us. We should first deliberate to find out what level we are at and what changes can be attempted to begin our way over. It means recognizing – reducing and eliminating some negative quality that we know is holding us back. If that negative quality can be successfully managed, and dealt with, then we are in a position to recognize a positive change we can make, which would improve the quality of our life. Find a Sankalpa, which is short and sweet; only a few words. It need not be influenced by words alone. It should be visualized symbolically as an image and felt as a sensation. It should bring up with it a feeling of complete surrender and faith towards God. Consider well before making your Sankalpa. Once you do find your Sankalpa, then meditate on it, read it each day, or journal on it. Don’t change it, until it comes true.

The phrasing of the Sankalpa can be either in the present or the future tense; whatever works for you. For example, when I make a Sankalpa and use the future tense, what this means to me is that I will do something; I will do it using all my willpower; and I will complete it. There is no doubt in my mind of this. That is what the word “will” implies here – I will do it. The word “will” refers to the future tense, as well as to willpower.

Sankalpa should only be made when one understands its real purpose and meaning. In the beginning, most people do not know what Sankalpa is or which Sankalpa they should make. Therefore, they should wait until their understanding develops. To come to this state, begin with something very basic: changing the habits; changing the limitations that inhibit your growth. Try to understand yourself, observe yourself, find the blocks, and overcome one thing at a time. Don’t have an abstract idea or an unattainable concept without prior training.

The power of the Sankalpa arises when we tune into our desires, into what we really want to achieve, and to get away from the confusion, doubt, and conflict; as seed has tremendous power – but only if it is sown in fertile ground, looked after, and tended daily, with the inner certainty that the seed will produce its fruit in its own time. In the same way, you have the mind and you have an idea. If you prepare your mind, and then sow the seed in the bed of your mind, and if the mind is clear, then the Sankalpa grows very well and becomes willpower.

Sankalpa should be used every time before we begin our Yoga practice. The practice of Sankalpa, in Yoga, allows us to spend a little time contemplating and trying to tune into what we really want in life. It is a fundamental practice because it provides a foundation for everything else. The problem is that we are so tense – that our past is tense, our present is tense, and our future is tense. Yoga teaches us that focus on the present. Ignore the insecurities of the future. If something is going to happen in the future why are you worried now? Perfect your present. If you practice Yoga (which includes Yoga Nidra and Meditation), it would guide you towards a steady calm body mind; and then Sankalpa will have more force and be able to penetrate more deeply, than when the mind is dissipated.

Sankalpa is an important stage of Yoga Nidra, in which the mind can receive your Sankalpa. It is a determination to become something or to do something in your life. Sankalpa is made twice in Yoga Nidra – in the beginning and at the end. When we make resolve in the beginning of the practice, it is like sowing a seed, and the resolve at the end of the practice is like irrigating it. The aim of Yoga Nidra depends mostly on the practitioner. One can develop the memory, increase knowledge, do astral travelling, transform your nature, and eliminate many vicious habits of thinking and living. If you know what you wish to achieve in life, Sankalpa can be the creator of your destiny.

Sankalpa is not making a wish every New Year’s Day. It is taking a step forward; and once you take a step forward, stepping back has no meaning. Remember that the more positive, optimistic, and Sattvic you are, the more strength you will gain, and the further you will go.

Om Shanti

Article by Dr Rita Khanna
Dr. Rita Khanna’s YogaShaastra Studio
(An Exclusive Yoga & Naturopathy Therapy Studio)
Ph: 040-65173344, 09849772485


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