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2023 reflections, setting a san kalpa and looking ahead

Updated: Jan 5

It’s January again and the time when we might set ourselves some goals and resolutions for the coming year. In yoga philosophy, the goals we might set ourselves are known as a ‘san kalpa’, which is very roughly translated as an innermost desire, or a sense of being. Unlike more westernised goal setting, which emphasise the transformational aspects of a resolution, like the ‘I want to become super slim, super fit, run the marathon etc’ type of target, a san kalpa is different. Yogis consider that we already have all the fundamentals to achieve whatever we want for ourselves, but pathway there needs to be unlocked. The mental and physical union and the enhanced self-awareness that comes from practicing yoga is therefore the gateway to achieving this.


A san kalpa differs too from traditional resolutions in that because we are already that person inside, we just need to remind ourselves of the qualities required to unlock the desire. This means you set a san kalpa in the present tense.

For example, rather than set a san kalpa of ‘I am going to lose weight because I will stop eating sugar at night’, you would reframe it as ‘I eat the foods that are nourishing for my health’. Or if your focus is to stop losing your temper, your san kapla could be ‘I pause to think before speaking’ etc. Clearly there are some caveats here, but idea that we already have all the qualities inside ourselves to reach our goals, i.e. that we are already ‘enough’, is a very positive one. In a world where we are constantly bombarded with messages showing physical perfection and often unattainable 'success' it is very refreshing. Returning to the earlier marathon example, the san kalpa relating to this could, for example be, ‘I listen to my body before I plan my daily training’.


When one door closes another one opens

So, you might be wondering, what’s my san kalpa? One of my yoga therapy teachers always used to emphasise a prosperity mantra, that ‘I love what comes, and I love what goes’. I use this as my san kalpa and find it personally very helpful because I am someone that tends to set unhelpful expectations of myself. The thing is when it comes to our bodies, that’s not always possible and yet we often press on, ignoring pains and trying to do things that don’t really serve us.  


Maybe you are experiencing that your body is changing and you can’t do all the same things in the same way that you used to do?  Maybe this comes as a result of illness, or body changes like menopause, an accident, wear and tear on the body or because you have pushed yourself to the limits and have damaged something?


I used to have this vision that I needed to be able to ‘get back to’ doing everything I previously enjoyed. Mostly this has been the case, but with some adaptations and the experience has taken me to new places and new pastimes that I would not have discovered otherwise. I am sharing this because I often see people who set themselves these expectations and in the end it all boils down to acceptance and being open to something new. Recovering from my operation has taught me to reframe my expectations and accept myself and my ageing body more easily. I find it helpful to feel pleased about what I used to do, but remind myself there’s always something new that’s equally good around the corner.


Now we are at the start of 2024, you might like to consider setting a san kalpa for yourself and see if it helps you. If you have a home yoga practice, this time by yourself on your mat is a good time to remind yourself about your san kalpa and emphasise your intentions to stay on track.

If you read this and set yourself a san kalpa I hope it helps you too :-)

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