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Focus on Sankalpa

In the yoga community, we constantly set intentions, or sankalpas, based on our own heartfelt desire. Many instructors offer a chance at the beginning of class to devise our intention. It can range from “strength” to “not thinking about that work project for the next hour.”

The new year is an appropriate time to set an intention, which I did in 2017, and now I’m reflecting on my growth. It’s important to note that intentions are not resolutions, which carry a literal “resolve” or “resoluteness.” This determination can lead to frustration if and when the resolution isn’t met. An intention is milder, easier to manage, and more compassionate.

My 2017 intention was to “trust the process.” I’d planned to trust every event and the purpose for every person who crossed my path. The chain of events unfolded somewhat like this: got pregnant, had a miscarriage, had to cut that man out of my life, met a new man, fell in love, had my heart shattered by the new man.

Maybe it would’ve been easier if I’d stayed single – but I was following the process and those events as they unfolded. I listened to my heart. We think that our heart always has our best intention in mind, but the heart can be deceiving. The mind and brain are united for a reason. Oftentimes, when solely listening to your heart, your vision is blurred. It takes the cooperation of the heart, mind, and brain to reason with self-kindness and self-compassion.

To further analyze this idea, one could argue that every action holds its own embedded intention. What’s my intention with this conversation? Do I need to make that point or can I let it go? If I fail at this particular action, how will it affect my overarching intention? In effect, an intention reveals layers of meaning through gradual progression.

Setting your sankalpa:

  1. What incessantly pervades your heart? What thoughts or quotes appear like a banner in your vision?

  2. Using your answer to the previous questions, whittle your ideas down to a short phrase, and if possible, down to one word.

  3. Now that you’ve defined your sankalpa, learn it, practice it, and say it aloud. Write it on a sticky note or find it on a piece of jewelry.

  4. Throughout the year, review and reflect on your sankalpa. Is it working and how might you modify it to meet your changing needs?

For 2018, my sankalpa is “manifest life.” I will still trust the process of what manifests, and relinquish control when necessary, but incorporating a deeper focus on what I want and how to get there will keep me on track. Distractions will interfere, of course, but if my intention is to manifest, I will always veer back to my original track.


By: Anne Castagnaro

Anne Castagnaro is a teacher education professor, yoga and meditation teacher, and lifelong traveller based in Southern California. She earned a PhD in Education, but doesn’t restrict that knowledge to the elementary classroom. Instead, holistic education that grounds itself in life lessons pervades her teaching. Anne loves cats, veggie burritos, and dangly earrings. Anne has a blog and Instagram -- find her there!

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