Since the New Year I’ve been thinking a lot about intention and motivation and what it takes for us to truly make our lives happen. In the days leading up to the first of the year there’s a lot of energy around making changes and shifting gears in order to have a better year than the one before. We spend time crafting new years rituals and intention circles with great hope that this will be the year that all things desired are made manifest. I suppose this is quite natural. We see a new beginning and in this, the possibility and potential of living the life we have always wanted. It seems simple enough, right? Say you’re going to do something and do it. So why, then, is it so hard for us to stick to these very things that we know will make us live happier, healthier, and more balanced lives?

I began to think of my own life and what motivates me. Don’t get me wrong, I often break commitments to myself and I let myself down all the time. But my most obvious commitment, and the one that I just can’t shake (and I have tried) is the one I have to my yoga practice. As you know, this practice is not for the faint of heart. It’s demanding of body, mind, and spirit and can sometimes be the very thing I most resent. Although my relationship to it has changed over the years, my commitment has been unwavering. Even as I write this I can feel my heart and belly resonate with a feeling of rightness. It is a profound sense of knowing that I can’t explain with my intellect. It is this feeling that I can feel, right now, percolating from deep within, that gets me onto my mat each morning. For me, it’s my passionate, heartfelt, longing to know myself authentically and my experience of how my practice supports this longing that pulls me out of bed, especially on those days when it feels like I have nothing left. This doesn’t mean that it’s easy or that I’m always enthusiastic. But it is the sacred promise I made to myself and the fact that breaking that promise leaves me feeling dull and dis-connected that literally fuels me from the inside and keeps me on track in those times when everything else in me could care less.

In Yoga this deep resolve is known in Sanskrit as Sankalpa and it is a very powerful method of directing our lives in a positive, affirming way. Sankalpa can be translated as a willful determination to become something or to do something with your life. It’s an intense passionate desire that is felt with the entire mind, body, and soul. It is not something that can easily be forgotten but rather, something that lives so deep inside your cells that it remembers you. All is takes is a quiet moment with ourselves so we can clear our minds and connect to our deepest truths.

Many of us make intellectual resolves all year round that often get lost and rarely lead us toward lasting change. This is because these resolves are not planted deeply enough within us. They have not entered into the subconscious mind and have not been backed up with deeply ingrained willpower and fierce commitment. Like with anything in life, effort and right action are necessary for our desires to be made possible. Yoga is a path of action and Sankalpa calls forth action. If we are clear about what we want and we approach it with strong feeling and commitment, we will begin to feel the mind become more structured and our lives become an expression of what our heart’s most deeply desire.