Setting Intentions

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Planting an Intention, or sankalpa

It’s a common thread in sports, business, dieting and News Year’s resolutions: Set a goal.  If you know what you are shooting for and focus your energy there, you have a much better chance of succeeding.  Most of us would likely readily agree with this sentiment.  Identify what you want, focus on it, move towards it, and your chances of success are greatly increased.

How often do we apply this to our Selves (notice the big S in the word)? Have you given thought to your heartfelt dharma – your purpose here on earth?  Can you state it?  Are you moving towards it?  Are you on the path, but feel there is more you could offer/experience?

In the world of yoga nidra, we call our heartfelt desire, one that aligns with our Higher Self and is intermeshed within our body, heart and mind, our sankalpa.  This sankalpa guides us to a life that is the fullest expression of ourSelves.  Unlike a goal, however, a sankalpa is a direction, a way of being rather than an achievement.  It allows you to plant your intention deep within yourSelf, so that you can manifest your dharma in the physical world.  It means that the universe is in sync with your intention and able to offer you ideas, situations, people and resources.  It allows for infinite options; many more opportunities for success than the meager achievements your brain may have in mind.  Its robust and may very well serve you for years or a lifetime.  Its a personal brand that you can use when making decisions: does doing/saying something align with who I say I am?

There are also times when you create other types of intentions to guide you or help you through emotions and experiences in your life.  We’ll focus on these later.  For now, lets formulate our “Big” sankalpa.

Your sankalpa will be a short statement stated in the present tense, as though its already true.   It should deeply resonate with you.  Take time – even a few days – to try your sankalpa on for size, tailoring each word until it feels just right.  When you state the sankalpa to yourself, see if its a natural fit.  Ready to craft your sankalpa?

sankalpa Creation

A primary intention should have the following properties:

  • Timeless, concise and powerful.  Something that deeply resonates with you.
  • A direction, not a destination or achievement.  You will never “arrive”.
  • Stated in the present tense, as if it is already true.
  • Something that aligns with you and you can deeply feel as true.  It should come from your higher self.  If it doesn’t quite ‘fit’, it likely is not aligned with your deepest self.

Want to dig more into sankalpas?  MORE

Try going through the following steps…

  1. Write down a free-flowing list of traits, capabilities or qualities that you would deeply like to possess.  It can help to write the names of 3-4 people you greatly admire and then list traits they possess.
  2. At the top of a second paper, write “I am here to be:”.  Then pick up to 6 qualities or traits that you listed under number 1 and list them after that preface.
  3. Consider the list — maybe over multiple days, and refine it to traits and qualities that really resonate.  You will likely reduce the number from 6 to 3 or less.
  4. Craft a present-tense statement that reflects who you are — your personal mission and brand.  Test it against the sankalpa properties above.  Test it out and see if each word is just right, wordsmithing as needed.
  5. Reinforce your sankalpa by saying it to yourself when you awaken and before you go to sleep.  Use it when making decisions – ask yourself which choice would best align with your sankalpa.
  6. Use your intention in your yoga nidra meditations this month.  We will work on secondary intentions later, so for now, focus on the biggie.


This month, endeavor to do the following:

  • Use your energy tool – nadi shodhana breath – when you awaken.
  • Craft your intention and use it when doing your daily and weekly yoga nidra meditations.
  • Plant your intention before you go to sleep at night.
  • When you have time, do your pre-meditation asana practice before yoga nidra.  Participate in a longer asana practice once a week – either the longer practice offered on this page, a class at your local studio or another e-class.


Listen to your short yoga nidra recording every other day (or more!)

Listen to your long yoga nidra recording once a week (or more!)

Relax and enjoy your daily intention yoga nidra recording.  This meditation is 20 minutes in length.  It will prompt you for your personal sankalpa, or intention, to enable you to plant it deeply within.

Start Meditation

This meditation is Satyananda Saraswati style.  You will be prompted for your intention during the meditation.  Make yourself completely comfortable prior to starting the recording (and, if you wish, place an eye pillow over your eyes before you begin).

Relax and enjoy your weekly Intention yoga nidra recording.  This Amrit-style meditation is 32 minutes in length.

Start Meditation

Reminder: Any poses or breath practices I cue in an asana practice are merely suggestions.  Your body and your doctor know more than I do, so only do what makes sense, and is recommended for you.

Your first asana practice is stretchy and slow!  It will help slow down your brain chatter and ready you to settle in for one of your guided yoga nidra meditations.  This practice is 23 minutes long.

Props:  Mat plus anything you need to settle in for meditation.

Your second asana practice is a a slow flow.  We’ll explore using intention in your physical yoga practice.   Remember to enjoy a 5 – 10 minute savasana when its done, or listen to your guided yoga nidra meditation.  This practice is 42 minutes long + savasana or meditation.

Props:  Mat, 2 blocks, blanket.  Bolster and eye pillow optional for savasana.

Start Practice 1

Start Practice 2

Pranayama, or breath practice, is a great way to tap into your energetic body.  Slowing the breath flips a switch that starts a chain reaction: the Vegus nerve signals the brain that all is safe and calm.  The brain lets the pituitary (master) gland know to adjust the endocrine system output, switching from fight/flight hormones to safe/calm hormones.  You transition from your sympathetic to parasympathetic nervous system.  Blood pressure lowers.  Digestion kicks in.

There are many pranayama practices, but let’s focus on on nadi shodhana, or alternate nostril breath.  I like this practice as its effective in both calming the breath and it providing the mind enough to do so that its fully occupied.

To perform this breath practice, start by sitting in a comfortable position.  Take your right hand and fold down the index and middle fingers (see accompanying picture).  Close your eyes & bring your right hand in front of your face, palm nearest the face.  Use your right thumb to gently close off the right nostril.  Take a nice slow, deep inhale through the left nostril.  Close off the left nostril with your ring finger as you exhale slowly and deeply through the right nostril.  Inhale through the right.  Close off the right nostril as you exhale via the left nostril.  Continue breathing in this way for at least 8 breaths, or for as long as you would like.  Always start with an inhale through the left nostril, and always end with an exhale through the left nostril.

A few more notes:

  • let the inhales and exhales be equal in length.
  • let the inhales and exhales be long, effortless & even, as much as is possible.
  • feel the breath spreading all the way down into the belly and out into the rib cage.
  • let all your awareness be absorbed in the breath.  Listen to the sound of the breath and follow the movement in your belly & chest.

For more information about the breath, check out the blog post linked in below.

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