As we near the end of 2015 and look forward to new adventures in 2016 a lot of us feeling the following way:
While you are going over things past and setting new goals are you subconsciously self-loathing? As you tell yourself that you want to lose 10 pounds are you subconsciously sending yourself a message that you’re fat? As you tell yourself that you want to watch less TV you are subconsciously sending yourself a message that you’re unhealthy. Call Mom and Dad once a week?! (You’re ungrateful.) Yoga helps you trade in your tired (and probably familiar) resolutions for a sankalpa instead.
Sankalpa is a Sanskrit word that means “deep resolve”. It is a New Year’s resolution with a yogic twist. The words of my yoga teacher ring in my ears every time I sit on my mat to practice or teach a class. “Sankalpa is a deep resolve, something you wish to accomplish in the near or far future. State it to yourself three times and in your mind see it accomplished, see it done.”
And as you ponder on your sankalpa you may find yourself stuck and not really knowing what is your purpose or a deep resolve this year. I go through periods of not knowing which is a wonderful thing that pushes us to search deeper and look harder. If you are in that space, set aside time to write in a journal and meditate. Contemplate how you would like to feel during the coming year. Is there any way you can reframe your results-oriented resolutions into something that will make this year’s journey more joyful and worthwhile? Instead of saying lose 10 pounds how about ‘May I be happy and open to what life brings me.’
Change doesn’t happen overnight. When you stray from the essence of your sankalpa, don’t berate yourself. Instead, gently remind yourself of your intention. But be firm in your resolve by incorporating your sankalpa into your daily routine. Use it as a mantra during Pranayama or meditation practice; post it on your computer, phone, or mirror; or simply say it to yourself quietly before going to sleep.
Here is what Total Yoga teachers had to say about their New Years resolutions and Sankalpa:
“I have never really had any new year’s resolutions for a while now, because, I noticed that I didnt really pay too much importance to it as part of the start of a New year! For me, at present, I have two ‘sankalps’ that are close to my heart and that I am struggling to achieve. I am persevering with these two as I go into the New Year and will continue to address these small goals until I achieve them. I am not going to add anything to these 2 come Jan 1, 2016 as I dont want to start the month with any unrealistic expectations for myself that I cannot achieve” – Purnima Trasi
“My ideas about New Years resolutions were reshaped a few years ago when I met a young woman named Liz. She takes her New Years resolutions vey seriously and considers what she wants to change far before January first comes along. Five years ago she decided she wanted to stop eating meat and hasn’t for five years. Three years ago she made a vow to stop drinking out of plastic water bottles and can count on one hand how many times she’s had to cheat since. It’s pretty impressive. More than impressive. For years I was a big date setter. Everyday I would plan on making changes tomorrow and when the inevitable tomorrow arrived I would fail, everyday. This constant let down made it impossible to think that change was ever going to happen. We continue on with the same bad habits and think that maybe that’s just the way we are we will never change. I don’t believe that to be a truth or an acceptable answer for anything. Wars have been going on since the beginning of time and we claim that it’s just in our nature but by accepting that as a truth about humanity means that we don’t believe that humans can make inherent, fundamental changes. We can and people do everyday. When you’re making your New Years resolution this year take your time! Real change takes years to take root. The age of instant gratification makes the wait time on this difficult but you can’t expect to undo a 15 year habit over night. So when you make your resolution and immediately fail by January third don’t just drop it. Give it six months or a year….or five! If it’s worth it to you it will happen one way or another.” – Catherine Juliano
“Every Christmas I would ask for a new Disney Diary and upon that first fresh crisp page I would religiously write not 1 but 3 New Years resolutions. I must have been around 7 or 8years old when I first started doing this, in the family we had a New Years Eve ritual to mull over and ponder on what had to be !!! I’m not quite sure why there had to be 3…. by the time I was 11, I was repeating the same resolutions year in year out. Overtime I became bored with it …. Later in life, I went back to the “resolution trap” … an older and more mature me, would be able to hold to a promise or 2 that would make a better ME…! Isn’t that something we all strive for ? It was a time of reflection, “throw out the old and bring in something new” , the media hype would entice you to make those promises to yourself, celebrities’ selling their most recent diet plans & fitness DVDs, half price gym memberships were all linked. Initially there would be that feeling of starting: new beginnings, new hopes, aspirations consumed the mind but then as soon as it came mostly and predictably later realization would set in, it became apparent that I had been deceiving myself and putting unwanted pressure to keep that resolve and then feeling guilty for not being able to keep to what I had promised myself, so actually something that was suppose to feel really good felt really bad…
So nowadays I don’t make resolutions, in fact I’m pleased I broke the habit, this is something we learn in yoga , to unlearn what we learnt, break a cycle, walk on the opposite side of the road.
Today instead of resolutions I set myself short term achievable goals through my Sankalp, using deep meditation techniques and repetition of it is I want to achieve, keeping a relaxed focus in my mind and stating it to myself at times when my mind is open (relaxed).” – Jagdeep Dosanjh-Badwal
Slavica Gokul is a certified Vinyasa, Hatha and Power yoga teacher through Total Yoga in Bangalore, India. She has been an aspiring yogi for more than 20 years. She dedicated herself to consistent practice 9 years ago and while residing in India from 2012-14 underwent teacher training.