Sankalpa: A Guide to setting "Intention" On & Off the Mat


A Guide to Setting “Intention”

On & Off the Mat

by: Kellee Rich, E-RYT, BS



San =  refers to a connection that we make to support our highest truth.

Kapla = means vow, or the rule, to be followed above all other rules.


"By definition, a Sankalpa should honor the deeper meaning of our life.  A Sankalpa speaks to the larger arc of our lives, our dharma - our overriding purpose for being here."
- Rod Stryker -

Those of us true to the nickname and lifestyle of "Yogi" are familiar with setting a Sankalpa, or intention at the beginning of every yoga class.  It is commonly practiced and can be deeply powerful if done with sure-footed accuracy.  The universe really does conspire in your favor when you learn to utilize the "power of intention."

But, how exactly do I learn to harness and use this "power of intention?"  You ask ........

The answer is: By first understanding the 5 W's of Sankalpa; secondly, by gaining the Know-How; and lastly,by learning the tools:

The Who: Anyone can participate!  

No experience is necessary!  This article is a tool that will provide you with the know-how on setting an intention that works for your life.

The What: Definition and Explanation of “Intention”

Definition of Sankalpa (or Intention): will, purpose, determination, resolution, and resolve.

Philosophy: Setting Intention in yoga class can be very powerful, but using this ancient meditative practice is most effective if utilized in a Yoga Nidra class setting.

Purpose: Setting Intention is an amazing tool to lead you to your heart’s desire, a call to action in this world, for you and your path.

Practice: On the mat, in yoga and meditation classes, and even off the mat and into the world.  Daily/weekly practice is most effective.

The Where:  Anywhere works!

In, and throughout, yoga and meditation classes.  Remember that repetition is magic and magic, repetition.  This is a proven practice that really works!  You’ll never know what you’re missing out on, unless you give it a try.  Therefore, I have included a mini meditation for you to try in the comfort of your home, before you take it to the studio and to your mat. Try it out below!

The When:  Anytime works, too!

Intention is not only for setting on the mat.  Consider taping your intention to your bathroom mirror and repeating it aloud every time you look into it.  Or even, repeating it mantra-style while meditating.  Or my personal favorite, exploring my Sankalpa during a deep-rooted Yoga Nidra session.

The Why:  Still need a reason to start this powerful practice?

Overtime, working with intention can have healing and transformative effects.

Setting your Sankalpa then becomes an opportunity for clarity, self-reflection, and discovery, a time to set goals and reinforce self-worth. It becomes a place to discover your purpose, and informs us of a path or particular direction to follow in life, an action on your path in this world.

And, finally The Know-How:  

This is where you get to become super creative.  I have produced for you an outline for asserting and exploring an intention in the yoga room, or studio, or at home.  It's up to you to take the steps that take you further onto your desired path.  Remember, the universe will always support you and conspire all its cumulative energy to get you to your dharmic path, your heart's desire.  You must first know what it is that you desire, and here I have shared some of the tools to create and utilize a Sankalpa, or Intention, as a added benefit to your yoga practice.  

Remember, and this is very important: Dreams are just Dreams without Goals.

Tools on the Power of Intention Below -  A Mini Meditation for You:  

First, set up in Child's pose, or other comfortable and meditative position, such as Corpse Pose (Shavasana), Lotus Pose, or Hero's pose. Be sure to create an atmosphere of serenity and comfort for yourself.

Second, center yourself & focus your breathing and energy.  For example, om three times, chant to Ganesha (the remover & placer of obstacles in your path.  Remember the obstacles are the path), or repeat a calming mantra.  Use breath and pranayama tools to calm and center yourself, such as Pure Breath or Four-Square Breath.

Third, state your Sankalpa, or intention, 3 times, to yourself, and in the present tense, as if it is already happening.  You can work on one Sankalpa for a single yoga session, a day, week, month, year, or even for multiple years.  Also, there are two types of intentions, listed below.

There are three timeline categories of intentions including, daily, 6-18 month goal oriented, or longer term Sankalpas.

Remember, each should be stated in the present tense, as though it is already happening.  This makes the Sankalpa, or Intention, even more powerful, and the universe will begin to conspire with you to attain your heart’s desire.  The two types of Sankalpas are as follows:

Type 1: An affirmation or statement of your true self, usually daily intention to initiate change in your lifestyle.

Type 1 Example: “I am creative; I possess a unique gift.”  &/or “I practice yoga and meditation daily.”

Type 2: A goal or intention that you aspire to, whether short or longer term.

Type 2 Example: “I am a channel for creativity and inspiration; I am a published writer.” &/or “I am a Wanderlust Festival Teacher.”

Also, remember to keep your intention in the present tense, as if it is already happening.  Try to eliminate words like: want, will, and wish.

Next, write your Sankalpa down and revisit it daily until you have achieved that intention, and then do it all over again.

In closing, the magic and power of intention is a tool that you can use in all aspects of your life: relationships, finances, goals both big and small, family, parenting, diet and so much more!  

Also, it should be mentioned that Sankalpas have no definitive time lines, therefore, you can spend a class time, a day, a week, a month, several months, or even years on a single intention.  Amazing, right?

That said, it can be effective to categorize and create a timeline for your manifestation and fruition of your intention.  These include, but are not limited to: Daily, 6-18 months, or 2-5 years, for example. Setting achievable goals along the way will assist in the ascension to realizing and reaching big dreams, creating serious and profound life changes, and actualizing healthy lifestyle shifts.

Also, it’s important to remember to focus on ONE Intention at a time.  Intention goes where your energy flows.

Fully consider your Sankalpa this new year.  Use Intentions in lieu of Resolutions and map your progress in a journal, or on a wall calendar, so that you can track your progress. Intentions tend to be more positive and you will find yourself striving toward your intention, rather than tapering off your promised resolution, which can bring you down.  Don’t fret!  Set those intentions and see your life change before your eyes!

This New Year, consider using Sankalpa, or setting intentions, instead of falling into habitual samskaras and unrealized resolutions.

Interested in furthering your knowledge and use of this ancient yogic practice?

Join me on the third Sunday, on March 18, 2018 at 1:30-3:30 PM at Truckee Yoga Collective for The Intention Workshop!  Cost is just $25 to pre-register.


About: Kellee Rich.  A poet and writer, full-time yoga teacher and devout mom, in her hometown of Truckee CA, Kellee enjoys spending her time outside the studio with her family and friends by paddle boarding, kayaking, snowboarding, and anything athletic and outdoors.  She holds a BA in English Literature from SNC (Sierra Nevada College, a 4-year Liberal Arts School in Incline Village NV.)  Kellee is a Lyme Disease and Stroke survivor, and is currently working on a memoir about living with and surviving Lyme, focusing specifically on how yoga saved her life.  Poetry and yoga go hand-in-hand in Kellee’s world, and she brings this eclectic mix of inspiration and empowerment to her students and in her yoga and meditation classes.



Kellee Rich Yoga