A New Year marks a new beginning. At the beginning of each yoga practice, we open with an intention. It is only natural that we also begin the New Year by setting our intention. Whereas a resolution speaks in absolutes (success or failure), in yoga our intention values the will, purpose, and determination behind the goal. In Sanskrit, the word for this is “sankalpa”.
A resolution is set like a bar by which we measure ourselves. It brings about self-judging and begrudging. Practicing sankalpa (the practice of setting an intention), on the other hand, helps guide us and acts as our True North—a personal mission statement, if you will. It can serve as a filter for our decision-making before taking action. For example, setting a goal of “lose 20 pounds so no more chocolate chip cookies or ice cream” sends a negative message to the self: “You’re not good enough at your current weight so you must be punished by depriving yourself.”
Instead, take a more positive approach. Tell yourself, “I will set an intention to live healthier.” The focus will be on the positive ways to support your intention without the self-denigration. So when faced with the decision of cookies or no cookies, filter it through your sankalpa. You will realize that the question is not whether or not you should have a cookie, but “how can I have a cookie that will help me live healthier?” A happy by-product could be that you open yourself up to new, delicious possibilities! (Check out our Nutrition Workshops for yummy recipes.)
In our yoga practice, we are encouraged to listen to our body. Honor your body. You can push yourself, but in a kind and gentle way. We must treat our spirit with the same respect. The deprivation and negative thoughts that come with resolutions dampen the spirit. So in this New Year, let us begin a new tradition of practicing sankalpa to uplift and affirm our inner self.
With sankalpa in mind, we can step into 2014 with honesty and clarity in regards to our goals, abilities, and relationships, including our relationship with ourselves. Leading us on a natural, gentle path to greater physical and spiritual health.