Sankalpa, the ability to create purpose in our lives through intention, has become a very important part of my life. On the yoga mat we are often challenged to have sankalpa present during our practice. The real benefit of sankalpa, however, comes in our ability to practice it off the mat. Below are ten tips that I have used to practice sankalpa on a daily basis:
1. Devote 80% of energy to the most important 20% of your daily activities. Much to my chagrin, I am not superman; nor do I want to be. In my younger days I thought I could devote 100% of energy to 100% of my daily activities. One of the benefits of self-awareness is that you eventually realize that practicing the 80/20 rule is far healthier for you both mentally and physically.
2. Discipline your mind to think in a positive light. Working towards a Ph.D. is much like swimming in open water. While there is a support system to make sure you do not drown, ultimately you are on your own. Positive thinking and discipline are your best friends.
3. Remain open to new ideas and people who challenge you. I spend time perusing the science section of the bookstore for the sole purpose of getting introduced to new ideas.
4. Act even when you don't have all of the information. How, exactly, am I supposed to practice Parsva Bakasana (side crow)? I attempt it miserably then, the teacher comes over and demonstrates gracefully. Great, now I have all the information I need, but when will my body figure it out?
5. Put your ideas through iterations in order to improve your initial thought. Part of living with purpose through intention is to realize that your thoughts mature over time.
6. Seek input from others. Part of my daily intention is to seek out ideas from others. This purposeful act has allowed me to forge new relationships and deepen current ones.
7. Reject popular thinking and pursue ideas that make you uncomfortable. Four years ago I stopped running, biking, and swimming altogether to practice yoga as my sole source of physical activity.
8. Plan ahead and work towards achieving a specific outcome (while leaving some room for spontaneity). I practice yoga daily but my routine allows for some playful spontaneity based on how adventurous, or tired, I feel.
9. Put yourself in environments, situations, and conversations that jump start your ability to think differently. I do this by attending class or workshops.
10. Think long-term. It took my three years to do a traditional headstand in the middle of a room. When I practice it today, I recall those three years and understand that my severe limitations in lotus may (or may not and that is fine as well) pass just like my earlier limitations regarding sirsasana.
Implementing Sankalpa off the mat takes time so approach it like any asana you are trying to practice.