Well, over two weeks in to the start of 2013 and I am curious as to what may have happened to all those well-intentioned New Year’s resolutions???
It is easy to sit down and wish for things to be different – for life to change in some way. What is harder is to actually make lasting changes that help us in fulfilling our Sankalpa or resolve.
My daughter was holidaying with me during the festive season and on December 31st she sat down to prepare her vision board. “You know mum”, she said to me. “Everything on my vision board from this last year has come into being”. Having thought about this for a while I was able to see the power of the vision board. Not just a decorative wall hanging but a constant visual reminder of the things that are important to you and that you are working toward in your life.
If you relate this back to the concept of Sankalpa (see Jan 2012 post) in which Swami Niranjan stated, “it is not merely a wish, it is a process of training the mind to develop the will and to develop clarity of thought”. The Sankalpa then works to sustain motivation and drive as you work toward your goal.
So the vision board is really a tool to keep you focused on your life’s goal. There may well be a number of other smaller goals that will ultimately help you to realise your life’s goal. For example a Sankalpa for inner peace may require you to work on your relationships with others and your relationship with the divine. You may need to change jobs, to root out old ways of behaving and perceiving things, to learn to be content when your usual nature is discontent. All of the things in this example require effort and work in the present…the vision board reminds you that the present is here and now …not in 2 weeks, 2 months or 2 years from now. It is what you are working on right now!
The seed of the largest tree begins as a seed..but implanted in its DNA is the potential for the greatness of the tree…it does not know limitation. Likewise do not let yourself be intimidated by any sense of limitation…allow yourself to reach your full potential in all aspects of your life and if you need another tool to help you, go on…….. make a vision board!
Home practice is one of the key elements to integrating yoga into your life. It is often something which people find difficult to apply and the reasons vary from “not enough time’, “nowhere quiet and comfortable to practice” to “I can’t remember all the poses” and “I just don’t know how to sequence practices”.
Some of these may sound familiar to you if you have been putting off starting your own yoga practice at home. You may well be attending weekly classes but have just not got around to finding time to explore yoga yourself in your own home. One of the most rewarding things I have done is to establish a routine of home practice for myself. Sure there are times when I am too tired or not well enough but that is ok because Yoga is about listening to your body (but be careful that you are not listening to your mind..which has the habit of finding reasons why this or that is no good or not working!)
So how do you go about it? Well the important thing is to begin….set aside a short period of time each day either early morning, or late afternoon. Do not restrict yourself with unrealistic expectations like “I will do a one and half hour class every day before I have breakfast. (this may be quite easy to do at the ashram where you do not have your other obligations of family and work) Start with a shorter session but try to allow enough time for a few asanas as well as some breathing practices and or relaxation. This may even be making sure that you allow yourself 5-10 mins lying in Shavasana at the end of your other asanas.
Find a space that feels right. It does not have to be huge. You can enhance the energy and atmosphere with a candle and some incense if you have some. I have set up a small yoga room in one of the spare bedrooms but I often just go outside especially if the weather is good. ( I find that nature is the best atmosphere for me)
Let your body tell you what poses are right for you on each occasion. Some will be repeated perhaps each day but sometimes you will just feel like doing one pose more than others. Begin with gentle movements and warm the body up then try to balance the practices out a little with a few forward and backward bends, a couple of standing asanas, a twist and if inversions suit your body an inverted pose to increase the flow of blood to your brain (it is also a great way to gain a new perspective on something!)
Swami Niranjan suggested the practices of Tadasana, Tiryaka Tadasana and Kati Chakrasana as excellent general practices for the spine.
I like to do at least some observation of the natural breath at the beginning and end of my practice and usually incorporate at least one other pranayama or breathing practice. (A good one for beginners is abdominal breathing )
Do not despair if you find that your practice is a little erratic at times…show compassion to yourself …just roll out the mat once again and begin with stillness. There is a great article in the current issue of Australian Yoga Life Magazine….sequencing a home practice if you would like to read more.
The Sankalpa or resolve in yoga nidra is a short positive statement that you make for yourself. It requires you to contemplate the most important goal in your life. According to Sw Niranjan “it is a process of training the mind to develop the will and to develop clarity of thought”. The Sankalpa then works to sustain motivation and drive as you work toward your goal.
It is not just a wish such as “I wish to become that” but a conviction that “I will become that”. In that way Sankalpa is not just a thought but a power or force.
By repeating it three times at the beginning of yoga nidra (when the body and mind are relaxed) and toward the end this force is implanted into the subconscious mind. When you make your Sankalpa at this stage you are surrounded by your own feelings and expressions of your inner spirit.
Sw Niranjan says that
“Your Sankalpa is not only thinking you are that, but striving to become that. It is taking a step forward and once you take a step forward, stepping back has no meaning.”
You do not need to have a very big Sankalpa…you can start with something small but the more positive and optimistic you are then the more strength you gain and the further you will go.