So it's that time of year again ... the time when we look to the twelve months ahead, and maybe make a New Year's resolution.
Traditionally, in Yoga also we set an intention, or resolution, for our practice. Of course, we can set one every time we come to our mat; but in our first class of a brand new year we set an intention that might help us in every class we take - and also might inspire us in our life as we step off that mat too. The Sanskrit term for this intention, or resolution, is Sankalpa, which means a heartfelt desire.
To go about finding a Sankalpa you can work with throughout the year, it makes sense to find something that has deep and true meaning to you, something which inspires you. As the Yogis believe we are all divine beings living out this particular incarnation in a physical form, we should, in theory, already have everything we need within us to become enlightened! So a little time for self reflection to connect heart and mind can be helpful here.
To begin, try looking back over the past year, and see what you've learnt about yourself. 2020 hasn't exactly been a piece of cake for most people; but I know I've had insights and experiences that have helped me to grow in ways I hadn't imagined, however painful the process of going through them was. Reflecting on our experiences of 2020 gives us a sense of where we've been, how we got to where we are right now, and therefore what our starting point is to move forward: as the saying goes, start where you are!
From that starting point, focus or meditate on what will inspire you in 2021,in both your practice, and in your life. This could be a particular goal for your practice, e.g. "I will breathe consciously during my practice", or just simply "Breathe". Try to make your resolution something that will not create extra stress, so to take an example, if you've never done any running before, "I will run a Mararathon by March" might be a little too ambitious!
When I make a Sankalpa I like to keep it to a one word focus, as the simplicity of that appeals to me (and I'm always trying to simplify things if I possibly can), but if a longer phrase or a couple of sentences works better for you, then that's perfectly fine too.
You can then let your imagination/desire do the rest; you could focus on a certain pose that you dislike and resolve to treat it as neutral whenever it pops up in class. If you're prone to self-judgement (and who isn't?!) then maybe your Sankalpa will be around not judging yourself, but treating yourself with kindness. It can be anything, in short, which resonates with you and your current situation. What are you ready to embrace? How can you push past self-limitation? How do you want to feel? Think big!
I'm very much looking forward to seeing those of you who can attend Zoom classes this week, and will enjoy helping you create a puproseful, joyful Sankalpa.