Sankalpa is a Sanskrit word that roughly means ‘solemn vow’. In Yoga, a Sankalpa is a kind of promise you make to yourself. It’s an affirmation that you repeat to help you make changes in your life and your way of being-in-the-world.
A Sankalpa is often used as part of a Yoga Nidra practice. Sometimes known as yogic sleep, Yoga Nidra is a systematic method for reaching a deep, healing state of relaxation. And that state is ideal for repeating affirmations and absorbing their meaning into your body and mind. But you can use your Sankalpa in any kind of meditation. You could even repeat it to yourself on the bus, or while you’re sitting in a traffic jam.
It’s personal—you need never share your Sankalpa with anyone else. And that means that you can be completely honest about what you want to change, or the qualities you wish to cultivate within yourself.
How Do You Create a Sankalpa?
Creating your own Sankalpa is simple, and the most important thing is that it really means something to you.
Step 1: During a quiet moment when you won’t be interrupted, think about how your ‘ideal you’ would interact with the world. For example, you might want to be more patient; more confident; more creative; or more peaceful.
Step 2: Try to choose positive qualities that you want more of in your life, rather than negative qualities that you want to get rid of. So if you want to become less jealous, you could reframe it as wanting to feel more secure in yourself. If you want to become less anxious, you might say that you want to develop greater trust.
Step 3: It helps to write these thoughts down. By doing so, you can pick out the important points and clarify your deepest personal intentions.
Step 4: Then, once you’ve identified your intentions, you can write your Sankalpa.
A Sankalpa is never ‘achieved’ or ‘finished’ because a human being’s journey through life is never finished! So, phrase your Sankalpa as something you are ‘becoming’ rather than something that you ‘want to be’. Avoid using words like ‘try’ or ‘hope’—make your affirmation simple and bold, written in a way that leaves no room for doubt.
For example, rather than writing ‘I want to become confident and creative’ or ‘I will try to be more confident and creative’, you might write this:
‘I am becoming confident and creative’
Take all the time you need to identify the purpose of your Sankalpa, and to write it in a way that feels good to you. It shouldn’t make you feel under pressure. Keep refining it until it feels empowering and energizing.
How Do You Use a Sankalpa?
You now have a carefully crafted affirmation in front of you which fills you with excitement for the future. Great! So, how do you put it into action?
Try the following techniques for using your own Sankalpa to support your wellbeing and personal growth:
Download Free Audio
Visit the Yoga Nidra Network and download a free audio practice. When you’re in that deeply relaxed state, bring your Sankalpa to mind. Allow it to sit comfortably in your thoughts; you’ve created your Sankalpa with care and integrity, so recalling it during Yoga Nidra will allow that depth of intention to settle firmly in your mind.
Take five minutes when you wake up in the morning to meditation with your Sankalpa. Sit comfortably, close your eyes, and become aware of your breath. When you feel calm and present, repeat your Sankalpa to yourself five times — you could do this out loud, or silently in your mind. When you’ve finished your repetitions, notice the breath for a few more moments until you feel ready to open your eyes and move on with your day.
Bring Your Best Affirmations
Bring your Sankalpa to mind when you encounter obstacles or challenging situations which spark negative reactions. Your affirmation may lend itself well to certain struggles — for example, if part of your Sankalpa is about becoming more patient, then repeat it to yourself when you’re on a frustrating phone call or feeling misunderstood during an argument.
Keep It Up!
The more you recall your Sankalpa, the more you’ll integrate it into your way of being. In neurological terms, the thoughts that you repeat most often create connectivity pathways that become shorter and easier to access. So if you repeat your most meaningful intentions regularly, you’ll develop an ability to stop unhelpful thought patterns in their tracks, and make your uplifting thoughts more habitual.