Cell Phones in Yoga Class?

This entry was posted on Aug 12, 2021 by Charlotte Bell.
yoga for shoulders

A few years ago there was yoga culture controversy over a teacher who was fired from a corporate yoga class for discouraging cell phone use in her class. Hired by the company to provide a yoga break for employees, the teacher 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 the dirty look was enough to get the teacher fired.

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.

By the same token, 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 the teacher’s employer’s first response would be to fire her 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. I recognize that smart phones do have great utilitarian potential. And having some way of taking people’s credit cards as payment for classes is crucial. People just don’t carry their checkbooks around with them anymore.

Cell Phones in Yoga Class

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. 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.

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 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 dozen instances over my 33 years of teaching 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.

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?

About Charlotte Bell
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 and Yoga for Meditators, both published by Rodmell Press. Her third book is titled Hip-Healthy Asana: The Yoga Practitioner’s Guide to Protecting the Hips and Avoiding SI Joint Pain (Shambhala Publications). She writes a monthly column for CATALYST Magazine and serves as editor for Yoga U Online. Charlotte is a founding board member for GreenTREE Yoga, a non-profit that brings yoga to underserved populations. 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.