It’s coming and fast – SPRING that is. Everywhere I turn, signs of it are [ah hem] springing up. With this wave of energy bursting forth from the ground up, what are we to do? Time now seems so precious as one season begins to close and another opens. But don’t fear, you have time. Slice it, dice it, however you want to – you can carve out slivers of time to relax. All to often, we think of watching t.v. as relaxing time, or spending time on the computer as downtime. Your mind never gets that rest as it is being fed millions of bits of information through the eyes. Be adamant with your family, that you are taking some time for yourself. They will respect you for that over time.
Perhaps after your 5 minutes reading through this blog, you can shut your door, turn off your cellphone, and try one of the poses from our class or any of the other ones that seem interesting to you. Begin with 5 minutes. Take another 5 minutes to think about your Sankalpa, your intention. At the bottom of this blog entry is a helpful article on Sankalpa.
Initiating the Pause
Adding a Pause to the end of your exhalation. Inhale and exhale but add a 1 or 2 second delay at the end of the exhalation for it to finish out before bringing in the next breath. Calms the monkey minds, better regulates your breath, adds space.
Make two stacks of two double or triple fold blankets on top of each other. Placed the two stacks end to end. Height and width of blankets can be adjusted for your body. Sit down straddling one of the stacks and carefully lower yourself down onto forearms, swing your legs on to other stack and lie down. Neck roll is placed at top stack, lower shoulder and head to floor. Neck is supported by neck roll and head is completely flat on floor with forehead and chin on the same plane. Arms stretched out to the sides. The stacks of blankets should be long enough for the entire body to be resting on including the feet. Option to put strap around calves if the legs are rolling outward. Stay for up to 15 minutes. Roll off blankets slowly and bring knees to chest with some movement.
POSITIVE POWER A Sanskrit word, sankalpa means “will, purpose, or determination.” To make a sankalpa is to set an intention—it’s like a New Year’s resolution with a yogic twist. While a resolution often zeros in on a perceived negative aspect of ourselves (as in, “I want to lose weight, so no more chocolate chip cookies or ice cream or cheese”), a sankalpa explores what’s behind the thought or feeling (“I crave chocolate chip cookies or ice cream or cheese when I’m feeling stressed or sad. I will set an intention to become conscious of this craving and allow my feelings to arise and pass, rather than fill up on fats”).
EFFORT COUNTS A sankalpa also praises the nobility of the effort rather than focusing on what you are doing wrong. “New Year’s resolutions leave me feeling guilty and mad at myself for not keeping them,” says Wendy McClellan, a yoga teacher in Louisville, Kentucky. So, last year, in a conscious effort to reject the resolution rut, she taught a special New Year’s Eve yoga class and encouraged students to look back and let go. Her intention, or sankalpa? To open her heart to new possibilities. “An intention has much more of a global sense than a resolution,” she says. “It helps me be softer with myself.” With a sankalpa, the self-loathing that comes from dwelling on past transgressions can begin to dissolve. In its place is an exercise in effort and surrender—create an intention and open yourself to the universe.
LOOK INWARD For several days, set aside time to write in a journal and meditate. Mull over your typical resolutions. How do they make you feel? Anxious? Unsettled? Incomplete? Now contemplate how you would like to feel during the coming year. Is there any way you can reframe your results-oriented resolutions into something that will make this year’s journey more joyful and worthwhile?
REPHRASE IT Create a short sentence or phrase for your sankalpa. Be careful not to set limitations based on fear. For example, instead of “May life bring me only happiness and joy this year” consider “May I be happy and open to what life brings me.”
BE FIRM BUT FAIR Change doesn’t happen overnight. When you stray from the essence of your sankalpa, don’t berate yourself. Instead, gently remind yourself of your intention. But be firm in your resolve—it’s a good idea to incorporate your sankalpa into yoru daily routine. Use it as a mantra during pranayama or meditation practice; post it on your computer, phone, or mirror; or simply say it to yourself quietly before going to sleep. —C.G
Catherine Guthrie is a writer and yoga teacher in Louisville, Kentucky, and a regular contributor to Yoga Journal.