Finding My SankalpaFeb 24, 2023
What is a Sankalpa?
First, let's do an exercise:
1. Imagine a quality that you would like to cultivate in your life. Examples could be patience, love, tolerance, wisdom, groundedness, or anything else!
2. Phrase your quality in the affirmative: "I am..." For example, "I am loving," or "I am wise."
3. Repeat your phrase in your mind three times now. Then repeat it again three times before bed. Then repeat it again tomorrow. Repeat it for as many days as you would like.
4. Witness your thoughts, emotions, and physical sensations over time. Does anything shift?
My Experience with Sankalpa
I was in a PhD program between 2019 and 2022. Even though I had been working towards it for basically my entire life, I didn't feel, deep down, that it was the right career for me. My heart wasn't in it, and I was suffering from lack of sleep, chronic migraines, and chronic anxiety.
During this time I would attend yoga classes on Zoom with one of my favorite teachers, Kate Kuss. (If you haven't heard of or met Kate, you can experience her amazingness yourself at the Soul and Steady Yoga Parlour). Kate would guide us through creating a Sankalpa at the beginning of each practice.
"Sankalpa" is the Sanskrit word for "vow," although in my experience Sanskrit to English translations often are not 1:1. I understand a Sankalpa as an intention, although it isn't something fleeting, like "I am patient [to do XYZ today.]" It is an intention that sticks with you for the long haul, like "I am patient [with myself and the rest of humanity]."
Kate taught me to phrase my Sankalpa in the present, affirmative tense: "I am..." just as we did above. She would guide us through visualizing a quality or energy that we felt called to cultivate in our life, and phrase it as a Sankalpa. For the three years that I was in the PhD program, the only Sankalpa that felt true for me was, "I am steady." I would repeat this again and again in my mind, trying to invite a quality into my life that was lacking: steadiness.
After three years of repeating steadiness in my Sankalpa, I finally manifested this quality in my life. Things began to shift when I overcame my fears and doubts about becoming committed yoga teacher (Who am I without my academic career? What will my family say? Will I be able to make a living?) and really went for it. I discontinued my PhD program, even though I had a "promising career." I started teaching at a local yoga studio, I made tutorials on social media, and I launched the Vinyasa Studio. And guess what? I sleep so well now, I have been mostly headache free, and I am managing my anxiety really well! I feel like I have finally come home to myself. I am steady.
Your Experience With Sankalpa
Maybe you don't need a career change because you love what you do! Maybe you are steady in yourself and in your life and you don't need steadiness. We are all on a different path, and we all have different needs. Some of us need seismic changes (me!) while some of us may just need little tweaks.
However, change can be hard for all of us. We all have developed samskaras (I'll talk about samskaras in more depth in a different post) where we fall into a "rut" or "routine" that may or may not serve us. Instead of beating yourself up about something you want to change, perhaps try creating a Sankalpa that cultivates the opposite. I was unsteady and insecure and unsure, so I cultivated steadiness. If you are impatient, abrupt, or hurried, you might cultivate patience.
Do you have a Sankalpa? Or are you searching for one?
Let me know how it is going in the comments! Vinyasa Studio members can chat with me about this during the live Q&A in March, or in the Philosophy section of the Community.