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.
Benefits to Practicing Yoga Every Day
In a recent study aptly titled, Neuroprotective Effects of Yoga Practice, the brains of experienced yoga practitioners were compared to those of non-practitioners with similar health profiles. Using magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), researchers at The National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health were able to identify regions of activity and growth. As a result, this study found that:
- A regular practice combining breath awareness, physical postures and meditation can increase the volume of gray matter (brain tissue) in different parts of the brain, effectively reducing the naturally occurring, age-related decline of brain cells. With most of the observed gray matter volume changes having occurred in the left-side of the brain, the implication is that yoga shifts the automatic response of the practitioner from fight-or-flight (right-brain, sympathetic nervous system activation resulting in acute physical stress) to rest-and-digest (left-brain, parasympathetic nervous system activation promoting calm and relaxation)
- The areas of the brain indicating the greatest change in gray matter were those directly related to sense of self, attention, spatial/sensory awareness as well as stress reduction. These findings provide a potential neural basis for the benefits of practicing yoga. The observed benefits were greater in those who practiced more often over a longer period of time supporting the notion that a consistent practice of yoga every day is more effective than an intermittent one