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Journey Pages, The Hugger Mugger Yoga Blog

Cell Phones in Yoga Class? I Think Not

posted by Charlotte Bell on July 10, 2012 |

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cell phones in yoga

Put Your Phone Down and Breathe!

Cell Phones in Yoga Class? I Think Not

A few days ago it came to light that a yoga teacher was fired for discouraging cell phone use in her class. Hired by Facebook to provide a yoga break at their Menlo Park facility, Alice Van Ness shot a student a disapproving look when that student in the front row interrupted practice to tap out a text in the middle of class. Apparently a dirty look was enough to get Van Ness fired. You can read more about this on two of my fave blogs, it’s all yoga, baby and YogaDork. Also, elephant journal has published a first-person account of the incident from Van Ness herself.

Whether or not you approve of cell phones in yoga class, I suppose a corporation who hires a teacher has the right to let that teacher go if she is not following their rules. Fair enough. A teacher has every right to set parameters about a whole range of student behaviors, including allowing or disallowing cell phones, in her own classes. However, the situation gets murky when that teacher is representing a corporation with its own set of rules. Still, it seems a little odd that Facebook’s first response would be to fire Van Ness rather than make her aware of their specific cell phone rules and give her another chance.

For the record, while I recognize them as a useful—and sometimes life-saving—tool, I’m not a fan of cell phones. By the time I finally got one—at the insistence of my partner—most of my friends had been using them for years. While I choose, at least for the moment, to have only a “stupid phone” that is turned off 99 percent of the time, I recognize that smart phones do have great utilitarian potential. Someday I may get one.

I very much appreciate being unreachable at times. As an introverted type, I need alone time, without the distractions of phone calls and emails, in order to function at my full potential. The idea of setting my phone next to my mat in my home yoga practice—let alone in a class—so that I can keep up with my emails, phone messages or Facebook feed is unthinkable for me. When I’m practicing yoga and meditation, my practice works better and feels better if I focus on what’s happening in my body/mind in the present moment. Practice time is my time. (Years ago, I made the mistake of rushing out of a shoulderstand to answer the phone. Can you say “instant nausea?” I never made that mistake again!)

All this said, I have not banned cell phones from my classes. This is not because I think it’s okay for students to text, talk, Twitter or Facebook in class. It is because my students are mature and considerate enough to understand that fussing with a phone in yoga class would be inconsiderate to everyone else in the class. I’ve never had to spell out a cell phone rule. My students just get it. Lucky me—and everyone else in the class.

From what I’ve read in the yoga blogosphere, this is not always the case. In larger, more popular classes and studios, people do keep their cell phones with them, ringers on and answer ready. If this is the teacher’s and studio’s wish—to allow cell phones—if all parties know this going into a class situation, then it is certainly their prerogative to come to that agreement. This would not be a class I would want to attend or teach, but that is my prerogative. We all have choices.

There have been maybe a half dozen instances over the years in which a student has alerted me to the fact that she may receive a phone call in class because of some emergency situation. These students have always left the room to talk, and have always let me know beforehand. I am completely fine with this. We all have lives outside yoga, and some things are more important than uninterrupted practice. Fortunately, my other students can roll with these situations. That’s the gift of serving a long-term sangha, people who respect each other and care about each others’ lives.

If you’re a teacher, do you allow cell phones in yoga class? If you’re a student, would you like to be able to use your phone in class, or are you happy for the technology break?

Post By Charlotte Bell (207 Posts)

Charlotte Bell discovered yoga in 1982 and began teaching in 1986. Charlotte is the author of Mindful Yoga, Mindful Life: A Guide for Everyday Practice, published by Rodmell Press. Her second book, Yoga for Meditators (Rodmell Press) was published in May 2012. A lifelong musician, Charlotte plays oboe and English horn in the Salt Lake Symphony and folk sextet Red Rock Rondo, whose DVD won two Emmy awards in 2010.

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4 Responses to “Cell Phones in Yoga Class? I Think Not”

  1. Joanna Colwell Says:

    Cell phones in the yoga room? No, No, NO!! (Although I will allow a phone on “vibrate” for say, a physician on call, or a single parent needing to be available to their child). So there is always that gray area, where we need to use our own discernment, as teachers and students.

    But yoga is about turning our attention inward, and technology for the most part is another distraction that will not help to quiet our minds.

  2. Charlotte Bell Says:

    I agree! Of course, there should be exceptions at times, and I appreciate that the few times my students have needed to answer a call they’ve always alerted me in advance. I’ve read that in some classes, students keep their cell phones on a corner of their mats and will answer social calls. This seems disrespectful to the rest of the class and to yoga itself.

  3. Lin Ostler Says:

    I’m pretty much with you on the personal cell phone. Picked up my first one when I became a doula and couldn’t miss an essential shout out. That one went to my kids, eventually, and I frequently carry an old school type, yet because I teach all over the map every day, and because of my propensity to forget which could lead to the dreaded Nokia-like tone infusing a practice, mine is generally turned to the off position. (hmmm, maybe I ought to add that to the array of asanas I’ve developed–from Star Series to Cell Off position.)

    Since I’ve been at a college for over 20 years, it’s a struggle when students try to sneak in a text. Generally just put a note in the syllabus, which works for most smartphone-savvy students.

    Interested to hear the results from the younger set of teachers. Here’s me √ing out for Old School.

  4. Charlotte Bell Says:

    Hi Lin, Yeah. I don’t think it’s such a bad thing to be off the communication grid sometimes. I can see where having one as a doula would be necessary. I have never texted, and the outgoing message on my cell encourages callers not to leave a message there because it may be weeks before I hear it. I think a cell phone definitely has its place, but not in yoga class, at least most of the time.

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