Q: My yoga teacher talks about "setting intentions." What’s the difference between an intention and a goal, and how can I use both in life and in my practice?
A: The word for intention, according to yogic philosophy, is sankalpa. This word can be translated as a vow that has been birthed in the very core of your heart -- the place of your deepest truth. It is different than a goal, in that it’s a longing that comes from your highest self instead of your thinking brain. Typically, a goal comes from a place of feeling, like you need to accomplish something to be happy. You may have noticed that even if you achieve a goal, you may still feel unfulfilled.
What the yogic practitioner attempts to do is to create a life in which her goals are the same as her sankalpas (her heart’s deepest longings). We do this by establishing an intimacy with our own inner essence -- the quiet voice of our inner teacher that speaks in terms of love, silence, knowingness, kindness, and bliss.
To connect to your heart’s highest intention, simply turn your awareness inward. Meditate on the quiet center of your heart and ask that silence to reveal a sankalpa that will guide you to real fulfillment. In this way, your individual will (goal) will be super-charged with the universal will (sankalpa).
Katie Silcox is the author of the upcoming book, "Healthy, Happy, Sexy - Ayurveda Wisdom for Modern Women." She's a vinyasa yoga teacher, Ayurvedic practitioner, contributor to Yoga Journal, and a senior teacher within the Sri-Vidya ParaYoga lineage under Yogarupa Rod Stryker.