Up until this morning, it had been since December 18th since I’ve visited my mat for asana practice. Oh sure, I’ve done some other practices. Some stretching, some breathing and some meditating, but I hadn’t “gotten physical” in a while. It took a real commitment to stay on that mat too since as soon as I lied down, Mason and Delilah took no time at all to join in…licking my ears and lying on my belly! However, since my New Year’s Sankalpa was “I am in perfect alignment”, I knew that the only way to be true to that, was to get on the mat. And after a long walk on the beach the other day that left me with a complaining knee, I knew that there would be plenty to investigate. Had I been on my mat sooner, I may have noticed the knee sooner as well.
A Sankalpa is a resolve or a vow. According to Dr. Richard Miller, San: born from the heart; kalpa: way of being.
I love working with sankalpa. I have found it to be one of the most powerful practices that I’ve employed on this journey. What I love about working with sankalpa is that it is vehicle that allows us to discover more of who we already are. It isn’t asking us to change or be something that we are not.
Different from a traditional intention to make change, sankalpa recognizes that we are already whole, perfect beings. It is only because of our identification with the changing nature (prakriti), or our misunderstanding of who we really are (avidya), that we believe that there is something wrong with us.
Sankalpa gives us the opportunity to come home to our innate ground of being and honors our heart’s deepest desire to be a guiding force throughout the unfolding of our life.
So, for example, let’s take my example of getting on my yoga mat. At the New Year lots of folks make resolutions that have to do with their weight and their health. They may commit to eating better or getting to the gym, or to their yoga mat more often. What makes those types of resolutions difficult to stick with is the fact that we have many years of habitual action and reaction (karma) to overcome. We need to ask ourselves, what is under this desire to exercise or eat healthier? Is it because I want to lose weight? Feel badly about myself? Have health issues I want to address? Want to fit into some particular outfit or type of clothing? Feel good about myself? Eat in a certain way because of how it impacts the environment? The underlying reasons are innumerable. This whole premise sets us up to feel as though we should be different than we are. That there is something wrong with us that needs to change.
Now, imagine you’ve already accomplished what your intention is. How would you FEEL? What would it feel like inside of you to be exercising more and eating healthier?
You may feel that you have more energy, feel less stressed, love yourself, feel healthier. Two people could have the same resolution, but for different reasons and for different underlying feelings. Sankalpa allows us to tap into those underlying feelings that the heart already has, but that gets blocked every time we feel that we don’t have something, that we should be different or that something is wrong with us.
Some examples of sankalpa based on these underlying feelings that one wishes to get by exercising or eating healthier may be:
I am whole and healthy. I am peaceful and at ease. I am loving towards myself. I am grateful for this body. I am kind to myself and the earth by eating organic/vegetarian, etc. I cherish myself. I have an abundance of energy.
So that each time you are about to take an action (or inaction), there is the opportunity for your sankalpa to rise up and to support you as a guide. Is this action/inaction in service of my sankalpa? At first it may seem mechanical to check in like this; however, over time, you may experience it happening as more ‘automatic’. What you are actually planting is a call for the energy of your life to follow the sankalpa you have set till eventually it leads you home to your innate ground of being. Once that happens, another sankalpa will arise and will continue to direct your life’s unfolding.
When I could feel the discomfort in my knee, my sankalpa, “I am in perfect alignment” reminded me to pay attention and that, in this case, the compassionate and appropriate response was to get on my mat and investigate it. The response could have been to see a doctor, or do physical therapy, or take a bath…again, the responses will always be what is appropriate for the individual in that moment. This response may or may not mean that my knee continues to have discomfort. The goal is not to get the knee to stop hurting. The objective is for me to the live in the “heart’s way of being” which allows ME to ‘be in perfect alignment’.
You can create sankalpa around all areas of your life: relationship, work, health, finances, etc. Ultimately, it is your own personal code of how you show up in the world and in your life.
Vikalpa – is the opposite of sankalpa. Vi: separate or division. Kalpa: way of being. Sometimes, we unknowingly ‘sabotage’ ourselves as a result of vikalpa. This often is a yet unrecognized underlying belief. For example, if I believe that I’m not deserving, then, when I felt my knee complain, I may have decided to ignore it and continue to push through it instead of investigating it. Over time, my knee may have gotten worse and that pain may eventually have led me to realize that there was an undermining vikalpa “I’m not deserving”. This may alert me to the need to align my sankalpa in that direction “I am valuable, deserving, worthy”, etc, whatever word speaks to you here.
Meditation is a great way to both develop sankalpa and uncover and transform vikalpa. And IREST (Integrative Restoration Yoga Nidra) is one of the easiest ways to employ both. IREST is an evidenced-based transformative practice that leads to psychological, physical and spiritual healing and well-being. IREST provides you with tools to help you relax deeply, release stress, increase resiliency, improve your interpersonal relationships and provide you with greater mastery and control in your life