Dedicate Your Practice, Dedicate Your Life
ded·i·cate [v.ded-i-keyt;adj.ded-i-kit] To set apart and consecrate for a sacred purpose.
At the beginning of a typical yoga class, you’ll usually be asked to either set your intention or dedicate your practice to something or someone. This is part of what makes yoga unique to other physical activities or exercise classes. You do not usually set aside time prior to a kickboxing or a Zumba class, but doing so before a yoga practice helps to center us. It allows us time to be still and to contemplate, or mediate on, why we came to do what we are about to do. Why am I practicing yoga today? It challenges us to be present in what we are doing, on and off the yoga mat.
In whatever we are doing, we can meditate and turn our thoughts toward anything. Meditation is contemplation. In Eastern Philosophy, many set their intention on deities or Self. Alternatively, many different organizations and religious groups incorporate aspects of yoga to dedicate their own practice, life and worship. Some religions focus on the gods and goddesses of Indian Mythology, and others, such as Christians, turn their focus to Jesus as they practice. dedicating this set apart time for a sacred purpose.
Remember the definition of yoga: yoga is to unite or to yoke. Yoke is defined as joining together. This wonderful gift of yoga is meant to “bring together,” whether speaking about uniting our beliefs with our movements and meditation practice, uniting one to another, bringing together our breath with postures or joining together our mind, body and spirit. This is an inclusive practice, never to be an exclusive practice. So no matter what your belief system or your background–sex, race, religion, or any other factor–you are welcome and accepted in yoga, just as you are.
The definition of dedicate, once again, is to set apart and consecrate for a sacred purpose. Take time to ponder this definition. What do you hope to achieve in the time that you set aside? Dedicate your time on the mat to whomever and whatever you want. Meditate on the immense blessings that you have to be thankful for in your life and devote your time to something much bigger than yourself. If I have friction in my life, I come to my mat and simply exhale as I create space for the new. Whatever the “new” is, I visualize that coming into my life on my next inhalation. I encourage you to create space by exhaling the old and inhaling the “new”; mentally, physically, emotionally, spiritually and relationally.
Perhaps you decide take this practice of dedication and devotion off your mat. What would you like to dedicate your day to? Furthermore, what might you dedicate your life to? This is a big question, I know. We so often just go through the motions. Pretty soon we find that our life is going by faster and faster. Yoga encourages us to be present and aware more than any other physical activity available.
Use your practice to become more focused and more keenly aware of what you may want to devote your life’s work to. It will be much bigger than you. It may even scare you once you receive the answer, but that is when you will know you are on the right track. We live in a hurting world and there is so much that you can do to extend your light to others. Start asking about dedication and devotion, set apart time for your sacred purpose.
5 Ways to Overcome a Yoga Rut
Do you have to struggle to get yourself on your mat these days? Has your yoga practice become a chore? Do you find yourself thinking about dinner, the latest movie you want to catch, or just about anything else but yoga during your yoga practice? Are you demotivated, frustrated or plain bored of doing yoga? If you answered “yes” to any of these, it is highly likely that you are stuck in a yoga rut.
Okay, so that’s the bad news. The good news is that it is totally possible to lift yourself out of this slump–I know this as I have personally been there. I succeeded in re-energizing my practice and so can you. Here are my suggestions for getting through this challenging time.
How to Overcome Your Yoga Rut
1. Pause and reflect.
The first and foremost step is to go within and get in touch with your feelings without being judgmental. What are you experiencing? Is it fatigue, boredom, frustration, depression, anger, annoyance, hopelessness or a combination? Next, ask yourself why you could be feeling this way, and listen to whatever comes up. The answer could be revealing and could instantly give you the insight you need.
2. Take a short break.
If you are feeling drained, are lacking in energy or feel physically exhausted, it is possible that you are going through a stressful time in other areas of your life. You might also be driving yourself too hard in your yoga practice without taking an occasional break. If so, the answer lies in acknowledging and honoring your need for some time out.
Our bodies need rest to rejuvenate and thrive, so give yourself permission to press the pause button on your practice while you indulge in other self-care rituals–like massage. You will know when you are ready to resume your practice because you will feel a sense of renewal when you hit the mat again.
3. Try something different in your practice.
We are humans and human beings get bored. It’s a fact of life. If you are feeling bored with your yoga routine and find yourself simply going through the motions, you have probably outgrown your present practice. You need to add more stimulation and challenge to your routine–this will keep your mind engaged and interested as there will be something new to observe, experience and master. Trying a new asana, a new variation of your favorite asana, or altering the pace of your practice by experimenting with a dynamic flow versus static holds could reengage you.
Something that always works for me is to focus my attention on an unexplored dimension during a posture. This could be with a physical aspect (for instance, taking my attention to the way my hips and knees are feeling during cobra pose rather than focusing only on the bend in the back), or it could be through an observation of the pattern of my breath and the emotions, feelings and thoughts that arise during the posture. Try it yourself.
4. Learn or study a new aspect of yoga.
Yoga teachings have multiple dimensions and are richly layered. I find that studying an unexplored realm, such as functional anatomy; yogic anatomy and physiology; or yoga philosophy, provides me with a fresh perspective on yoga. Subsequently, applying this new information takes my practice to a new high. For instance, reading about the Yamas and Niyamas and reflecting on their application made a huge difference in the way I approached my asana practice.
Delving into the anatomy of individual postures keeps me motivated to scientifically examine myself whenever I am on the mat–this process also provides valuable insight into necessary alignment corrections, and creates an awareness of specific muscle groups that need to be worked on.
5. Stop striving for perfection.
If you are feeling annoyed frustrated, hopeless or depressed, it is very likely that you are trying too hard to attain the final posture. Perhaps you saw a relative newbie execute a flawless Pigeon pose at a yoga class recently and felt defeated since your Pigeon is nowhere close. If this strikes a chord, it is a good time to remind yourself what yoga is all about.
Yoga is a journey of self-discovery and transformation. The asanas are just a means to this end. To reap the benefits of yoga, it is not essential that you achieve a perfect posture. As in any other journey, it is rewarding to enjoy the ride and have fun along the way. So lighten up, accept your present levels of flexibility and strength and aim to enjoy your practice. This attitude shift may be all that you need to reconnect with yoga.
I hope these tips help navigate you through the temporary turbulence you are experiencing along your path. Remember, clear and bright skies are just around the bend.