Yoga, a spiritually transmitted disease (when devoted correctly)

Can't imagine a better place to practice than on that little rock.

“You’ve been teaching differently,” they say. They, my students, say that it’s different, but that they like it.

The asana sequences that I teach haven’t changed. I give the same cues, play similar music, and use the same jokes that my regulars have probably heard too many times. What has changed is something deeper.

The reason for this change wasn’t conscious. I started teaching differently because I started practicing differently.

When I first started practicing yoga, it was all about me. The small me, the disconnected me, the me that has shit to do and hips to open and a core that needs strengthening and a mind to clear. And although practicing yoga for solely yourself is absolutely fine, it can get…old. It starts to feel stale. On top of that, it also takes a very egoless, gentle person to practice me-centered yoga and get any benefit out of it. In my experience, when we practice just for ourselves and the ego is inflamed even in the slightest bit, it leads to internal negativity. We think, why can’t I twist any deeper, why doesn’t my head touch my shin, why can that person do a handstand and I can’t, why am I thinking about what to make for dinner later, and why, oh why, do I suck so bad at yoga and life in general? On some days (or months), I’m egotistical and not so gentle with myself, so a practice that’s geared towards opening MY hips and finally getting MY body into this one pose and clearing MY mind doesn’t really work so well.


So, when I’m feeling ego-ey, or even if I’m not, I dedicate my yoga practice that day to someone or something outside of myself. I started doing this when I lived in Statesboro, not really knowing what I was doing. I remember feeling so connected to the other students in my yoga classes, so much that I would pick some person at random in class with me and devote my practice to them. Then I started dedicating to someone who was sad or troubled that day, or needed extra love. Sometimes it would be my roommate, or my Mom, or a friend I hadn’t seen in a while, or my pet turtle. It didn’t matter who or what I dedicated my yoga to–it worked, every time. It transitioned me out of “me” mode and into The Big Picture. It felt really, really good.

It started becoming second nature to devote my practice to something outside of me, not even a certain person or thing. It was just an overall feeling of external devotion and dedication.

Recently I’ve been practicing Ashtanga yoga, a lot, and a few weeks ago I started to feel the slight tug of ego, seducing me back into me-centered yoga. Being able to do some of the more challenging poses made me feel like I was super yogi, and not being able to do the “easy”, seated hip-openers made me feel like sucky yogi. This time, I knew that this was not a path that I wanted to go down. So I started the conscious dedicating again. To someone in the class, my teacher, a friend, the candle in the front of the room. Anything.

Now I encourage my students to do the same. Not usually in an in-your-face kind of way, but in subtle ways.

When we practice keeping someone or something else in mind, we realize that the person or thing just wants us to be happy. They want us to work hard if working hard will make us happy, and back off when it feels right. They want us to have fun and be gentle and easy. They don’t give a damn about how open our hips are or how long we can stay in headstand. These are things that only our ego cares about. So when we practice for them, we stop caring too. We start having fun and being light and getting some real work done. Spiritual kind of work.

Some days I can practice without dedicating, but again, it takes a very special day to do that and a very deliberate suppression of ego.

I strive to take all of the lessons I learn and discoveries I make on my yoga mat and apply them to the other twenty two and a half hours of my day. What I speak of today is no different. When I feel like I’m rushing, or half-assing, or being otherwise unmindful of being alive, I again, do a conscious dedication. Maybe a whole day is devoted to something outside of me, or maybe just washing the dishes or making dinner. Whatever it is, it helps me get out of my head and my little life and connect to the Big Stuff.

So try it. Dedicate. Devote. Marvel at something or someone other than yourself. Celebrate it, open up a bottle of champagne for it. Love it with all your heart. Doing this, is actually, not selfless, it will come back to you, in the best of ways. Maybe it will even catch on–yoga is, after all, a spiritually transmitted disease.

The truth is that when we do this, we are actually not devoting to something external, outside of ourselves, something “other”. We are recognizing our connection to that person or thing. We are seeing ourselves in something outside of ourselves. We are seeing the internal in the external.

This will make you fall in love with the whole world.


22 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Brent Abel
    Jun 15, 2011 @ 09:38:57

    Hey kid. Incredible post…

    Ok, so today at high noon I’m working out on-court with Michael Wayman for a couple of hours over at St. Mary’s in what is supposed to be high 80s – low 90s.

    And, I love it, I am definitely going to think of dedicating the workout, the sweat, the effort, etc. to someone else.

    I’m already feeling much more motivated!

    Where’d you get all these smarts 😉



  2. Q
    Jun 15, 2011 @ 11:07:03

    Nice kid! That is what you should be most proud of, she turned out just fine, thank you very much!

    I like how she looks at life. Will try her approach this afternoon. in my lesson. I’m already more relaxed.

    I love that!

    Nice work Mr. Abel!



  3. Shelly
    Jun 15, 2011 @ 11:15:56

    Thanks for the link Brent. Great post!


  4. Lucy
    Jun 15, 2011 @ 12:11:02

    Lovely inspiration! The repetitions of my Salutation To The Sun every morning are dedicated to each of the 8 Dynamics as described by L Ron Hubbard. There’s no thought involved, just being the dynamics, which extends outward beyond a moment in time each day.


  5. Sheldon
    Jun 15, 2011 @ 12:57:57

    This makes me want to take up yoga!
    Very good! Thanks Brent/Georgie
    I wish it were only high 90s here!
    Sheldon Borrego Springs


    • Brent Abel
      Jun 15, 2011 @ 15:48:43

      Hi Sheldon.

      My practice partner today, Greg, is an Ashtanga yoga devotee, and he said I’ve got to get into it.

      OK. One step at a time, right?



      • Georgie Abel
        Jun 15, 2011 @ 16:56:43

        Ashtanga is the type of yoga I usually practice (not teach). I think you would like it Dad. It kicks your ass but really makes sense, especially for athletes. The only thing is that it can be kind of intense on the shoulders. Any type of yoga will really help tennis though.

  6. Daria
    Jun 15, 2011 @ 13:01:06

    It is very thoughtful, and it will work. I always feel so much better when I focus on other people (at work, as a physician). We are too egocentric most of the time.


  7. Gary
    Jun 15, 2011 @ 13:01:45

    Hi Georgie,

    I found meaning in your post today,

    Thank you.


  8. Andreas Boettcher
    Jun 15, 2011 @ 16:24:16

    A great satisfaction comes with the power of intention. All kindness and love returns to us all in great abundance.We are able to share and contribute throughout our lives. Reaching out to others and demand nothing in return.


  9. Shushana
    Jun 15, 2011 @ 20:42:46

    I so understand what you mean when I teach. The joy I feel in the achievements of my students is immeasureable. I dedicate every lesson to them. I just don’t quite see how to do that in tennis. I’ll give it a try, though.


  10. Paul GH
    Jun 16, 2011 @ 02:47:13

    What a cool idea.
    I can imagine that if I dedicate my session to someone else it will lighten it and a lot of the distracting unhelpful stuff will fall away.
    I will try it with my next tennis team training session.
    And I will dedicate it to you Georgie.
    Thanks for guiding me to this Brent.



    • Brent Abel
      Jun 16, 2011 @ 07:38:00

      Hey Paul. Glad you enjoyed Georgie’s post and thanks for leaving a Comment here.

      That seems to be the real benefit with dedicating your practice to someone else – so much of the negative ego centered stuff goes away and improvement & enjoyment is a much stronger possibility.



  11. Karen
    Jun 16, 2011 @ 06:01:38

    This is my yoga for today and I am starting my dedication to my own daughter, Cathy, right now. Sher happens to teach yoga, also!! Thanks so much for sharing your daughter’s lovely message.

    🙂 Karen


  12. Aaron Smith
    Jun 16, 2011 @ 08:00:34

    Very thoughtful, I will devout my tennis lesson today to my sister. Whose showing great strength in dealing with breast cancer. Georgie, great insight!!

    Aaron Smith


  13. Jim Kane
    Jun 19, 2011 @ 18:02:00

    What are you trying to do to me? I think I got carried away today while playing a tough three setter. I did prevail and still standing( but sore!), but in the midst of a very close match – I find myself dedicating my game to my daughter and then later in the match before serving – I am dedicating again- this time- to my son.


    • Brent Abel
      Jun 21, 2011 @ 08:43:27

      Very funny Jim! Now you can take Georgie’s advice for all of us old farts and get into a regular yoga practice and maybe we won’t be so sore.

      Well done in your match. More so for thinking about your kids while competing…



  14. David Woosley
    Jul 05, 2011 @ 13:50:15

    Good post. (Brent, thanks for the link.)


  15. zenlearner
    May 07, 2013 @ 05:05:18

    wonderful; I immediately shared with my wife. Furthermore I realised that while swimming I dedicate number 26 & 36 to my mother and number 25 I always remember my father in law! Thanks for sharing! (Lengths of swimming pool)


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