If you’ve ever been asked to form an intention during a yoga class or meditation exercise, and found yourself floundering for one, you’re not alone. Frankly until recently, “intention setting” sounded like some kind of trendy nonsense to me, rather than part of the ancient yogic tradition which I am studying and practicing.
Then I tried yoga nidra, a technique in which practitioners receive instructions to relax the body while remaining aware.
Most of us are floundering in the darkness, like ships without rudders. We don’t know which way we are headed because we are being led, forced and pushed by the tempest of life. Using the technique of yoga nidra, however, we have a choice in life, and that choice is created by the sankalpa or resolve.Swami Satyananda Saraswati, from his book Yoga Nidra
At the heart of yoga nidra is a personal resolution, or sankalpa, that addresses a topic important to the person. Practitioners will repeat their intentions at the beginning and end of each session, hearing instructions like the ones below for guidance. The purpose is to train the unconscious to achieve the desired state through regular mental repetition.
Creating Your Sankalpa
- Scan the phase of life you’re in now, and find one area you’d like to improve, forming your intention around that.
- Make your sankalpa short, simple and positive.
- Use the present tense, as if it has already manifested.
- Repeat 3 times inwardly, with confidence. This is your sacred promise to yourself.
- Allow the intention to come to you when you’re in a relaxed state, and open to receiving intuitions from your subconscious.
- If you experience stress and anxiety – “I am calm and relaxed”
- If you are scattered and distracted: “I am present” or “I live in the present moment”
- If you have trouble trusting: “I have faith”
- If you blame others for your suffering: “I can create the life I deserve”
- If you feel resistant to change: “I am motivated”
- If you’re feeling vulnerable and shaky: “I am balanced and strong”
- If you are angry a lot: “I am grateful”
- If you experience turbulent emotions: “I am content”
- If you have trouble sleeping and are often tired: “I sleep soundly and wake refreshed”
While it’s better to try and find your sankalpa in the relaxed state, some of us can get very distracted trying to find the right one, and this can tank your whole experience of yoga nidra. This is the case for me personally. I can never come up with something good in the moment, I change my mind a lot, and then I miss precious minutes of the practice. To assist my yoga nidra practice, I sat down and did some journaling to try and create a list of possible sankalpas. I was really surprised by what I came up with!
- Close your eyes and think of your current daily life.
- Create a list of “wants” and “needs” — stay away from the trivial, go for the deep.
- Take a look at your list. What stands out as the most challenging, or maybe even a little scary?
- Form your intention around that. Simple, positive, present tense.
Although you can use the intention for therapeutic purposes, Swami recommends that it should instead be used for a greater purpose, such as for achieving self-realization. The purpose of sankalpa is not to fulfill desires, but to create strength in the structure of the mind. Studies that used such intentions during meditation have shown that cognitive restructuring processes are stimulated. You can use the same sankalpa for a while, and then because we are ever-changing, over time your sankalpa may change too.
Through the practice of yoga nidra, we are not only relaxing, but restructuring and reforming our whole personality from within. Like the mythological phoenix, with every session we are burning the old samskaras, habits and tendencies in order to be born anew.Swami Satyananda Saraswati
If you’re stuck in a rut, or stuck at home, maybe yoga nidra could help. I’m not promising personal transformation, but it’s just possible that like me, you have never really explored your subconscious and practiced opening up your mind-space, allowing it to wander. Plant your sankalpa into this open, liberated mind-space, and trust that the suggestion will take root and grow.
What’s your sankalpa today?
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- Give yourself permission to relax and rest
- Set intentions for personal growth
- Reduce your stress levels and sleep better
- Share your unique experience with other practitioners