The first day of Level 1 Teacher Training opens with Jill talking about sankalpa and I think, “ugh… she’s gonna ask me to set my intention.” I resist rolling my eyes back and force my mind to stay present. I’ve never understood “setting your intentions” when asked to by a yoga teacher at the beginning of class. No one has ever explained the meaning behind that except for “what do you want from your practice today or why are you here?” Well duh! I’m here to move my body and work out some kinks, breathe a little and sweat a bit.

However, Jill went on to explain that sankalpa is a resolve, more than a New Year’s resolution or an intention. I kept listening as she gave examples and guided us through finding our own sankalpa.

Jill asked us these questions:

1)  Upon passing, what 3 things would you want others to say about you?

2)  Upon passing, what 3 things would you have had accomplished?

3)  Currently, what self-imposed (personal or physical) limitations prevent you from achieving 
those accomplishments?

4)  How can you specifically relieve those limitations?

5)  Are you open to believing that these personal limitations can be removed?

From these questions, see if you can find a recurring theme, not only in your answers but also your life. The process of listening deep within mirrors the practice of swadhyaya, the study of oneself, one of the niyamas of the 8 limbs of yoga. You might see patterns, attitudes, and habits that are working, or more likely, not working in your life. What sets sankalpa apart from a New Year’s resolution is that it is longer lasting, not just a short term change, want or need. Think of sankalpa as “I am” rather than “I want” or “I will” or “I need to” or the wretched, self-sabotaging “I should.” It is something you don’t need to declare for the world to hear but it is the silent voice within that guides you.

Your Sankalpa is already present. It’s your heartfelt desire. It’s already showing up in your life in so many ways except it’s just waiting to be seen, heard and felt. You don’t need to make it up, you don’t need to search very far, no one can influence you on what it is or what it should be, and most importantly, you don’t need to summon your willpower to attain it or keep it alive.

I came to study with Jill because of some chronic pain I’d been experiencing in my body for the past year. I’d heard of her from other people who trained with her and mostly knew her as the Therapy Ball lady. I’m not a woo-woo, spiritual, third eye gazing type, so I was excited to explore my body physically and dig into some muscles and tissues. Oh boy! Jill certainly delivered and surpassed my expectations on that front. Even though I’ve eradicated tons of pain in the short amount of time I’ve spent studying with Jill, my biggest take away was this sankalpa thing.

I’ve been practicing vinyasa-based yoga for a little over 10 years and teaching for about 8 years. I was so committed to my practice that nothing would stand in the way of me and my mat, not even a date with my hubby or going out with friends. The mat was first priority. Yoga really helped in many ways, including getting rid of my carpal tunnel syndrome, but day in and day out for over 10 years started to take a toll. The very thing that I loved and that had healed me on so many levels was finally starting to hurt me. But I didn’t dare question the practice or my dedication.

As I remained open to this sankalpa idea, I soon saw how I had blurred the lines between why I practice and why others say I should practice. Somewhere in the mix, I had guilted myself into practicing for tradition, or because of cliched ideas, or because “I have to, I’m a yoga teacher.” Somewhere I lost sight of why I practiced in the first place, then the dedication turned into obsession and my body paid for it. I knew something was not right when my consistent practice and dedication made my body ache more. The YTU poses helped heal those physical aches but developing a sankalpa helped me realize that I was mentally bullying myself during practice. The very poses that initially healed me were now hurting me. Answering the questions that Jill posed to help me find my sankalpa helped me discover that I am never satisfied, even in my yoga practice, when 1 hour wasn’t enough and 90 minutes wasn’t either, until it had become 2 hours, twice a day. Today, I practice more freely without pretending it’s dedication, and focus on areas in my body that deserve my attention. And the sankalpa that I found for myself? “The present moment is enough.”

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Nikki Wong

Nikki found yoga in 2001 to help alleviate her carpel tunnel syndrome. She is a 500hr RYT in Vinyasa, Baptiste Power Vinyasa, and Ashtanga Vinyasa. Her first introduction to YTU was through the therapy balls that provided much relief from the wear and tear of years practicing a vigorous style of yoga. When the chronic hot spots lingered for longer than usual, she really began to study her body which led her to learn more from Jill. She immediately fell in love with the YTU techniques and is now YTU certified in 2013. You can catch Nikki teaching at her studio, Yoga Inside Out in Cupertino, CA.

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Tam Nguyen

I really appreciate how Nikki makes the connection of sankalpa with svadyaya and using the sankalpa as a grounding and focused element for one’s practice; be it a yoga practice or whatever activity. Also, that it’s already a part of you, inside you, waiting for you. Thank you Nikki.


I think that what this post enlighten , for me, is the fact that, no matter by what activity and who often we practice it in a week, if we want to be, become, stay healthy or recover from injury or avoid imbalance, ONE REPEATED type of activity is not enough. I am sure every body on this blog knows about K Bowman (writer of Move your DNA) or K Starrett, among others, for keep repeating that, yes it is good to practice type of activity (yoga for example), but what about all the other motions your body is not… Read more »

Kayla Lee

I loved this post. I have found sankalpa to be the biggest take away from level 1. I have more than one sankalpa, but they all relate to “feeling”. Feeling is why I first came to yoga. Then it became exercise, or because I have to because I am a teacher… this has grounded me back to my initial intention, or sankalpa, to feel.


I too was nervous about the woo woo nature of adding a sankalpa. I’m a very logic driven person, and this was an exercise I was not excited about trying. On the other side of trying to be a good sport, and “give it a whirl”, I don’t know what I was really doing before it. This has helped me to put both the good and bad of my life in context, forced me to decide why instead of just what, and even though it can be scary at times, my life is fuller and richer for the experience. Thank… Read more »


I am a yoga teacher, so Yoga tune Up was not the first time I heard about sankalpa. Sometimes we become very complacent in our life, IE work, play . The Sanklapa Theme is weaved throughout the Yoga tune Up Training. I needed this reminder. I really love the way you talk about your Sankalpa already being a part of us. It is there just waiting to be discovered. You are right about just starting with the words I Am being in the positive mode. You don’t need to think, I have to I Will I must. I love my… Read more »

Gloria LoCurto

Thanks for sharing Nikki. It’s so easy to latch onto that ‘yoga high’ we get from an intense and uplifting practice. I was in the same position as you last year when I was practicing almost 7 days a week and after a while starting hurting in way too many places. What I love about Yoga Tune Up ® is that through it, I’m learning to feel great in my body always so that I don’t have to ‘go to the mat’ in order to have a positive connection with myself.


merci pour cet article on a justement vu cela aujourdhui jour un formation

Bonnie Chiong

Thank you for writing this. I LOVE the fact that there is something deeper than ‘intention’, and the process that Jill takes your through during the first day of Level 1 is deep. In fact, I found that if I kept asking myself these questions, this process of self-inquiry can be incredibly eye-opening! Thank you for sharing

Kimberly Greeff

The practice of creating my Sankalpa during my YTU Level 1 TT was profound. I too came for the muscles, for the biomechanics and the deeper integration of anatomy in my teaching. The Sankalpa was by far a most unsuspecting surprise and provided me with some much-needed reflection. Unlike other intention setting process and journal reflections that I’ve both gone through and led, there wasn’t a sharing of this sacred resolve. This was just for me and it somehow went straight to the heart of what I didn’t want to see. Some say that YTU isn’t spiritual and yet it… Read more »


I came to YTU teacher training through other modalities rather than yoga and sankalpa was a foreign concept to me. I am so pleased that it was the first thing we did because it has helped me so much. If you are a frustrated perfectionist like myself, you might find yourself trying to meet standards that you don’t even really care about. When I dug around for my intentions it was freeing to find that they had nothing to do with making sure that my end product is perfect. Now I am feeling less frustrated 🙂

Sue Taylor

Like yourself and many others who have commented, I too never quite understood the meaning or intention of Sankalpa prior to the level 1 training. It is now crystal clear and I have the confidence to encourage students to create their own. I love the saying “yesterday is history, tomorrow is a mystery, today is the present which is why we call it a gift”. Life truly is a gift and we should never take it for granted. Be present every day and repeating your Sankalpa helps us to follow our journey in life with purpose and direction.

Matt Halawnicki

Sankalpa=My favourite part of Yoga Tune Up level 1 Training!

Serge Goyette

Thank you so much for this message which is so true, before this training I had no clue what sankalpa was, thanks also to Jill which explains it so clearly. my complete way of doing things have changed since.
many thanks to all


Beautifully written Nikki. I also went into the YTU teacher training with the same mindset regarding just wanting to get to the biomechanics and therapy ball techniques. However after establishing my sankalpa I realized how much more I actually got out of my sessions and my students did as well. Thanks for putting those initial questions too. They reminding me of day 1 of YTU teacher training.


I felt the same way on the first day. I just thought to myself, really? I’ve already done yoga trainings with all this inner working stuff. I am here for the physical knowledge. But, I am so glad we did the excersize and that it was integrated everyday into our training. It is working for me 🙂


What a great message, and one of my favorite parts about YTU. It reinforces self-compassion and inner strength. Whether it is called sankalpa, personal message, or affirmation statement, everyone should have one.

Michelle Corbeil

I love the idea of Sankalpa but have had difficulty using my Sankalpa or even remembering it to use it. I think intuitively the body knows if there is dissonance, I mean my mind wants that Sankalpa but maybe my Being wants something else. Jill’s method certainly has allowed me to tease out the Sankalpa that will serve me rather than the one that is a sound bite appropriate for Yoga Journal.
Thanks for addressing this.

Melanie Burns

Nikki thank you for listing out the questions and the process Jill uses in finding your Sankalpa. I also have found this useful in excavating a deeper meaning to most actions and prioritizing what matters most, which I am reminded through this process, should never be at the mercy of what matters least. It has brought a lot of clarity. Thank you for sharing your experience.

Jen Wende

THank you for sharing your story. I am in the level 1 training now, and loved learning about sankalpa. I was also moved by the specific way the questions brought out the intention, and it is certainly having a profound effect.

Katie Alba

“The present moment is enough.” Brilliant. I love the idea of a sankalpa. What a positive focus to keep us going.

Kim Cordova

I wish I could find my sankalpa. I’m struggling.

Dustin Brown

Your feeling at first were so similar to my own some time back before someone explained it in-depth to me. I really love the way Jill takes it many step further and makes you really consider what you truly need from the universe. Its always said but so very true that if you send your sankalpa out to the universe with pure intensions, yogi dreams do come true. Thank you for sharing!!

Dustin Brown

Beautiful ! I too struggle in finding the balance in too much or too little. My body and mind always searching for more. my sankalpa is always changing and today it is “By improving myself through education and self study, I will be able to improve and help others”
Thanks for sharing your thoughts!!


Thank you so much for sharing. This really hit home. I work a lot with intentions that start with the words “May I” (influenced by Theravadin Loving-Kindness meditation practice) and so re-wording things in such an affirmative way triggered me (“Who am I to say for sure that I am — insert sankalpa here”). I went along with Jill’s suggestion and it’s the end of day three of my training, and holy moly, is my sankalpa ringing true. I am seeing it unfold as a beautiful support in all I do, not just in the training.


I am also working on mine… I think I landed on something yesterday but still bouncing around a bit.


Just answered the same set of questions at my YTU level 1 training. Thank you for sharing your Sankalpa. I believe I have found mine!


Thank you for sharing your story,
I am now at the end of day one of YTU lvl 1 training and am wondering what my Sankalpa will be.

It resonated very strongly, what you said about it being already present and already showing up in your life, I love that.
I feel very similarly about it and look forward to, basically, give a name to the driving force in my life so that I can give it even more power.

Be well and keep biting into that fabulous salty almond dark chocolate of a sankalpa you have.

Rachelle Gura

Thank you for sharing your experience. I feel so much pressure creating the PERFECT sankalpa, finding the exact words are a challenge. Recently I listened to an old YTU teachers conference call where Jill talked about yoga nidra. What was so cool, and there were many cool things, was that your sankalpa can speak directly to the subconscious mind if ‘activated’ during yoga nidra. Talk about pressure, now I’m talking to my subconscious lol! This sparked an entire new purpose behind the sankalpa for me and for my students. Perhaps the pressure I feel regarding the sankalpa is part of… Read more »


This is exactly how I felt day 1 (yesterday), I struggle with the spiritual side of things. I don’t yet know how the cosmos align to place each of us in this moment for this specific reason. However I believe in being thoroughly immersed in the moment I am in, and trying to soak up all that I can. But with this when I thought about the idea of my passing, it brought my back to a coworkers funeral for his wife. She was a school teacher who had lost the battle to cancer too soon. I was overwhelmed by… Read more »


Thank you for sharing your story, it is really valuable to hear other people’s perspective and journey. Developing a sankalpa that means something to you is not easy to do. Understanding the intention behind your practice is an integral part of yoga and something that can be confusing and disconnected for many students. For many years I did not understand how to set an intention in class other than getting through the hot yoga class. Sharing the true meaning of setting an intention and developing a sankalpa is something that I want to bring into class when I begin to… Read more »

Aaron Porter

Day 2 of my teacher training I went to lunch at Baja Fresh and spilled Guacamole on my shirt. I literally took a breath and repeating my Sankulpa this was all automatic. Then I found a new shirt in my bag. #noneedtopanic

Aaron Porter

I am still working on my Sankulpa. But, the thought process really gets you think “why are we doing anything.” There must be a purpose in everything that we do. Suddenly, simply thinking about what my Sankulpa may be makes me examine everything. #workinprogess


I can so identify with what was once healing is now starting to hurt. I was introduced to yoga at a Power Yoga class that I was determined to do perfectly no matter what. Can’t get there…I will jam myself into that position and suffer for the rest of the week. When I did finally come to understand what I was supposed to be receiving, yoga became a gift, instead of a torturous “workout”. As I get older, and my body lets me know that some things aren’t good for me anymore, I find that I’m once again in that… Read more »


It’s my first day of teacher training and I was asked the same questions. They were familiar to me, and now I know why. I had read this post a few weeks ago. I’m sort of struggling with a sankalpa. Sure, I came up with one for today. And, I’m sure I’ll use the same one tomorrow. But, I struggled with answering the questions. Some of them are still left undone. For 20+ years, I’ve focused on raising my children and being a wife, both of which I love(d) and enjoy(ed). However, I sort of got lost in it all.… Read more »

Morgan Ward

What I love most about my sankulpa is that it is ever changing! While it always revolves around the same sense of peace, depending on what is going on in my life at the time my sankulpa can change, which makes it all that more impactful to me and speaks to me in the moment.

Jason Campbell

In training Jill talks about the ‘Power Pose’… a better visualization may be the flying squirrel. To me a sankalpa is the power pose of the brain. You’ve always had that power, but it’s not until you see it can you fully realize that power. The questions Jill asks to help one discover their sankalpa are pretty powerful in themselves. I find myself almost crying as i wrote out my answers, thinking of the things i’ve been struggling with for the last few years and really realizing the common link between all of those things. Everything just became SO obvious… Read more »


Thank you for posting the process of finding your sankalpa. I loved this journey that Jill took us on during our first day and look forward to sharing it with my own students. The process was an interesting one for me. Although I expected to find a common thread that would show up within my teaching, I found my sankalpa quickly settled on something that resonated close to home. That being said, reminding myself of this immediately settles any anxiety, and quickly brings everything back to the midline bringing clarity. It is so much more than setting an intention. I… Read more »

Jeannette Foley

Nikki: I immediately related with your comment on the frustration you’ve felt in classes when the teacher asks the class to begin with setting an intention. Never before Jill’s training have I actually had someone walk me through a process to help me clarify what my Sankalpa might be. And yet, like Caitlin above, while I haven’t yet entirely narrowed my thoughts into a simple statement, I’m reminded at the beginning of each opportunity to practice, I am working from this attitude, this perspective, and most importantly that it is as foundational as breath. The feeling that I practice with… Read more »

Sharrari Fit

I believe Sankalpa is a great way to focus in on yourself before starting your practice. These questions can honestly help you to bring your thoughts together to really find what is needed in your life or what you are blinded by, or overlooking. A strong practice should be more than just a physical release, but a mental one. Mentally finding a way out of the harsh and petty realities of the world and still be present in your heart and mind, so you can keep being true to yourself. Personally, I like to do so much in a day… Read more »

Barbie Levasseur

I can relate to reconnecting to the real reason you practice yoga. At some point, many yoga poses started hurting me, too. My some of my joint were unstable and my muscles were too loosey-goosey to support them. After assessing my body, my physical therapist asked me a great svadyaya question: “Why do you keep stretching your hamstrings?” When I teased out all of the reason I kept doing deep hamstring stretches, I realized they were all kind of silly, ego-related, or habit-related. My sankalpa right now is, “I prioritize what is essential today.”


Thank you for sharing this, Nikki! Having just finished Day 1 of Jill’s training, I’m still wrestling with how to put my own Sankalpa into words–for some reason, the hard part for me has been getting it into something that is both positively framed and succinct enough to carry around with me easily. It’s nice to read about your process with creating a Sankalpa.


Nikki, You’re so right about setting the Sankalpa is more than a resolution for the year or the month. It’s digging deeper in you. What are you doing now to accomplish what you really want in your life. It’s hearing your inner voice and that also take courage, follow your instinct and defeat your fears. Setting your Sankalpa gives direction to your life and helps to live in an honestly way. If we find the main purpose of our life and send our attention to it, we could discover that life is easier than we thought. I think the most… Read more »

Amanda Crutcher


Thanks for sharing. I admire your wisdom in finding freedom in your practice.

There is value in committing to a dedicated practise and making it a discipline; with time – both age, wisdom and experience have helped me too, to see that ultimately yoga is to serve us as a tool to help us face what is true for us, this may mean practising less and listening more.

May wisdom arise in all beings! Amanda


Upon starting Jill’s Level 1 Teacher Training January 17, it was so very synchronistic that she began talking about Sankalpa as I had just done a 2-Hour Workshop on January 1, New Year’s Day, all about Sankalpa practice! To hear how Jill guided us through the reflection and journaling was a sweet experience for me personally since I had just guided a group of others to arrive at their sankalpa. San, means to “connect to the highest truth of your heart” Kalpa, means a “vow, commitment or resolve”. I was overjoyed to begin my first day, as led by Jill,… Read more »

Linh Taylor

I love the 5 questions Jill asked in order to guide us back to the path of why we’re practicing and teaching yoga. I too enjoy the journey that brings me to the mat and my sankalpa. Sankalpa is my compass in the wilderness and my teacher on the mat. I’m not my career or my past. I’m not just myself. I’m my energy, happiness and compassion. Just like the body which sometimes could get so stiff and tight, my sankalpa may go through obstacles and speed bumps, but I’m willing to roll it out with my TuneUp balls and… Read more »


Nikki, Thank you for your post. When Jill read sample Sankulpa’s in training today, yours resonated with me the most. Not only is the present moment enough, but I am enough. My Sankulpa, like everything else is already present, just waiting to be seen. It’s not my job to seek out my heartfelt desire, but to remove any barriers which prevent me from seeing it. For me, uncovering my Sankulpa is the spiritual equivalent of discovering blind spots in my body. I’m happy the two went nearly hand in hand in training today. Hopefully more deliciousness for body and mind… Read more »

Nikki Wong

Geoff, Tracy, Mimi… thanks for reading and also sharing your thoughts. Finding my sankalpa was literally like sinking my teeth into my favorite dark chocolate almonds with sea salt bar 🙂 I could feel this sense of ease and comfort radiate through out my body. Everything is easy when you’re guided by the inner teacher as you referenced, Tracy. Another thing that I’ve discovered that sets sankalpa apart from resolutions is that the feeling of attachment to it is not present. True and honest sankalpa evolves and it’s foundation continues to guide you without leaving you with a bitter taste… Read more »

mimi martel

thank you Nikki, this is exactly what i was talking about to a friend of my a few days ago !!!! (which i will share the article with) It’s PERFECT to start the new year ! how to find a resolution that will STICK!!! ( what is behind those new year resolutions!) i did this exercises a few time , the first time was fine, it made sense and resonate with me …. but the second time WOW, this one blown my mind ! My sankalpa is my rock right now ( specially through pregnancy) this is exactly what i… Read more »

Tracy Hodgeman

Nikki thank you for this lovely and well written post. I can personally relate to your description of over practicing and practicing for the wrong reasons and perhaps in the wrong way, and even using yoga to punish yourself in some way (I ended up tearing my supraspinatus off the humerus before I learned to slow down!). I see the same pattern playing out in many of my friends and students as well. I am beginning to think it is the sign of a maturing practice when you stop to ask yourself “Why am I practicing?” At first you practice… Read more »

Geoff Brown

I too really enjoyed the self reflexive contemplation that the creating my sankalpa gave me. I believe over time it will evolve and change as my practice evolves and changes. As for now, my practice is young and trying to find time and inspiration in the “modern/real world” is a challenge to my best intentions, but my sankalpa is there to reminding me of what I truly desire. I contemplate on the major terms and ponder my sankalpa, for example, “what does it mean to be a student?”, “what is a practice?”, and “what kind of energy is associated with… Read more »