This pause is akin to the time we take at the beginning of a yoga class to set an intention, a sankalpah, for our practice. Sankalpah is a Sanskrit term for will or determination. When we set a sankalpah we are choosing to move beyond the physical aspects of the practice and imbue our efforts with meaning and purpose.
What we choose need not be complicated or verbose. It might be an idea, a concept, even simply a word that signifies something we wish to cultivate in our lives: peace, love, health, honesty, truth, gratitude, relaxation, mindfulness, compassion, kindness, strength.
This brief moment of consciously and deliberately slowing down marks the transition from the external and often scattered attention of our daily life to the inward, steady focus of our practice. It prepares us to move forward with purpose and dedication.
It also serves as an anchor to what is truly important to us amidst the inevitable distractions and meanderings of the mind. When we get lost in thought or the mind wanders or we come up against frustration and annoyance, we can return to our intention as a reminder of why we are here on our mats. Our sankalpah brings us back to the present with precision and direction.
This practice of contemplating and choosing one’s sankalpah is just as useful off the mat as on. Before we embark upon the final few months of the year, perhaps set aside some time to pause. Take as little or as much time as you like – a few minutes, an hour, a day – to put aside the phone, email, computer, television, Facebook, Twitter, and any other distractions. Turn inward; observe; contemplate what you’d like your focus to be for this day, this week, this month. Having taken this time to choose your intention, you can move forward with stability, clarity, and inner strength.