What does it mean to dedicate your practice?
There is a term in Buddhism called the Bodhisattva vow: dedicating the search for enlightenment to the welfare of all sentient beings, helping to free them from suffering. If you’ve taken a handful of yoga classes, chances are you have heard your teacher use the term “dedicate your practice.” One of the primary intentions here is to encourage us as students to use our energy in the world to create good in the world and, perhaps one day, eliminate suffering.
Now, this may seem like a mighty task and truth be told, I will sometimes feel overwhelmed and think to myself “Oh gosh! Who do I dedicate my practice to today? Who REALLY needs help?” What I have learned to do is allow myself to dedicate my practice to the first person (or perhaps animal, or group of people, etc.) that comes to mind. This is not meant to be a challenge to come up with the perfect person to dedicate your practice, but a practice in compassion and empathy so that when we are off the mat and living our daily lives we can perhaps be a tiny bit kinder to one another.
So with that, as you come to your practice today, maybe you will dedicate your practice to someone. Here are a few steps to guide you …
1. Decide who or what you will be dedicating your practice to. This can be someone you love dearly, someone who you know could use a little extra care, or even someone who makes your life difficult! The possibilities are endless.
2. As you set up your yoga practice, lying down or seated, focus all your intention on your dedication. Visualize yourself giving love, kindness, and compassion to this person.
3. Always allow yourself to process any emotions that may come up. This can be a very emotional experience. So whether these emotions are good or bad, allow them to cycle through you.
4. Bring your attention to your breath and the mantra “Loving, Kindness” – inhale “loving” and exhale “kindness” – saying these words to yourself.
5. As you begin moving through your yoga asana practice bring your attention to this dedication when you find your mind wandering, when you are confronted with a challenging pose, and perhaps as you begin to wind down your practice. You may find that as you send out loving kindness to this particular person, you will also be sending this to yourself.
You can take the same dedication into your meditation if you wish! Ultimately it’s up to you and, like everything, this becomes easier with practice. Don’t worry if you have forgotten by the end of your yoga session who or what your dedication was. As always, please feel free to share with us today … what is your dedication? And let us know how it goes!
by Maggie Converse