From Goal-Getter to Intention-Setter: Discovering Sankalpa in Yoga

We set goals throughout our lives. Practice more, get that promotion, master that pose…you name it! Goals can be a source of motivation, a light at the end of the tunnel. But, let’s face it, sometimes goals can also burden us, making us feel like we’re forever chasing a finish line that keeps moving further away. And in our practice, this feeling of always striving, of never being ‘good enough,’ can quickly steal our inner peace.

Enter: Sankalpa. This beautiful Sanskrit word is often translated as an intention, vow, or commitment. It’s an age-old yogic concept that encourages a shift from goal-setting to intention-setting. The difference, you ask? An intention, unlike a goal, isn’t an endpoint we strive to reach. Instead, it’s a path we choose to walk, a way of being that aligns our actions with our deepest values.

Now, hold on! If you’re anything like me, you might be thinking, “But I love having goals! I find it motivating!” Well, don’t worry! We’re not throwing goals out of the window. Instead, we’re enhancing them with Sankalpa—the magic ingredient that adds depth and purpose to our intentions.

Consider contentment, the Niyama of Santosha. Instead of setting a goal like “I will stop worrying”, which focuses on a desired outcome, why not turn this into a Sankalpa of “I am content with what I have and where I am in life”? This sets up a new way of being, a new perspective that impacts every moment. It shifts the focus from the future to the present, from what we lack to what we already have.

Here’s the beauty of combining Sankalpa with goals in our yoga practice: it creates a powerful feedback loop that keeps us grounded and focused. Let’s say your goal is to hold a challenging pose for a certain amount of time. A Sankalpa might be “I will embrace the struggle because i want to be strong and balanced.” Each time you attempt the pose, instead of focusing on how long you’re holding it, you keep returning to your Sankalpa, to the feeling of forging strength and balance.

And who knows? You might stumble, you might fall. But each time you do, your Sankalpa is there to guide you back, like a gentle whisper in your ear, reminding you of your inner strength and balance, every time you run into your struggle moment. It’s not about achieving perfection—it’s about honoring where you are right now, about embracing the journey over the destination.

So next time you roll out your yoga mat, I invite you to explore the power of Sankalpa. Let’s move beyond rigid goals and step into a more mindful and compassionate way of practicing. Because, in the end, yoga isn’t about touching our toes—it’s about what we learn on the way down.

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