I'm pretty sure we can all relate to committing to a new year’s resolution only to find that old habits die hard. So how can yoga help us to move forward - including shedding old patterns?
When we have a strong desire to achieve something, a deep call to accomplish something, this is called sankalpa, or ‘inspired intention’. This is like the yogi’s version of a resolution - however this is where the similarities end.
A sankalpa is a positive intention or a seed that we plant deep in the mind. Like any seed, it must be planted in fertile soil for best results. The trouble with a new year's resolution or affirmation is we often declare this to our conscious or ‘thinking’ mind - much like planting a seed in too little or poor soil - and it just won’t grow.
The difference between a sankalpa and a new year’s resolution is that a sankalpa is used when we’re in a receptive state. At the time of sankalpa repetition – usually during meditation or yoga nidra - our alpha brain waves are more dominant. These are the brain waves of relaxation, creativity and receptivity.
I've found sankalpa to be a strong catalyst for change and one of its many benefits is its practical application in shifting and transforming unhelpful mental and physical patterns. It can be used to break a deep-seated habit like alcohol or drug addiction. Its mental repetition can also be used to calm the nervous system whilst under stress. For physical or terminal illnesses it can be utilized to encourage healing, increase will power and promote positive thinking.
How to create your sankalpa:
Choose what you wish to change or manifest in your life; aligning it with your most heartfelt desires.
Phrase your sankalpa in the present tense as if you already have it, “I am” is a good place to start.
Keep it measurable so that when it manifests, or no longer serves you, you can set a fresh intention.
Applying your sankalpa:
Towards the end of your meditation or yoga nidra practice, plant your sankalpa in the fertile soil of your subconscious mind, mentally repeating it three times.
It's important you use the same words and at the same stage of your practice each and every time it is repeated.
Stated with conviction, faith, and determination – and used daily - it will grow strong roots and will always manifest. Be patient :)
Then LET IT GO. When you set a sankalpa, you let go of the fruits of your actions. You invest in the process, rather than clinging to the outcome.
Starting a sankalpa:
Anytime is a good time to set a new sankalpa, however around the new moon is particularly potent. Find out about the benefits of setting intentions around a new moon
Start small. According to general psychology it takes just 21 days to change a habit! The key is consistency. Whether it’s your meditation or yoga nidra practice, it’s good to aim for the same time every day, the same practice every day and for the same specified length of time.
I hope you find this tool helpful to refine and redesign your internal state, and as a result your external world will reflect this.