I recently took a vinyasa class at one of my favorite local studios. I had noticed that one of the students had brought their phone into the studio, and although that’s not something that I would personally do, I didn’t think much about it. As we went through class, I was completely connected to my practice. It was one of those practices where I felt like I was the only person in the room. I was in the moment with full connection to my mind, body and breath. That was until towards the end of class when we were in Ardha Matsyendrasana and we had turned to face the back of the room. Right in front of me was that same student having a full conversation over text while she was in her seated twist. I looked around the room to see if any one else had noticed. There were a few people who had also taken notice of this technology based conversation taking place. I was completely dumbfounded and for the rest of my practice I was distracted by this student and unable to return back to that bliss-filled state of presence on my mat.
Most classes are only 60-75 minutes long. Are we a society that is so reliant on our technology that we cannot be without it for even an hour at a time in order to be able to work on what matters most? Our own mental and physical health are at stake here. The idea of setting my phone next to my yoga mat gives me a tremendous amount of anxiety. I appreciate and look forward to time that I am completely unreachable and disconnected from my phone and endless social media feeds. There is something freeing and liberating about knowing that for the next hour or so nobody is wanting anything from me, I have nowhere to be, no phone calls/texts to answer, nothing. I can completely be present on my mat. When I am practicing yoga and meditation, my practice works better and feels better if I am able to focus on what is happening in my body and mind. Connecting with my breath as I move from posture to posture. My practice is my time.
I am highly against cell phones in class and although I would not ban my students from having them next to their mat, I would strongly encourage them to think about why they feel the need to do so. If they truly have to have it, and I feel that there are certain situations that warrant it (which would include a nurse/doctor being on call, having kids that are at home by themselves so mommy/daddy could get their practice in or various other personal issues) I would ask that the student place their mat in the back row with their phone on vibrate and if they need to answer it to kindly step out and be discreet when doing so. If you feel so connected to your phone that you cannot be without it for an hour, I would venture to say that you probably need yoga more than anyone else in the room.
In this fast paced, technology driven society that we live in, it is so important to shut down, detach, unplug and turn it off for just a short while in order to spend time reconnecting with who we truly are. Although technology makes our lives easier (most of the time), more convenient and something in which we rely heavily on to do our day to day activities, it does not define who we are. One of the eight limbs of yoga is the called the yamas. These are the social restraints that we should adhere to in order to help us get closer to obtaining liberation and finding eternal bliss. There are five yamas: Ahimsa (non-violence), Staya (truthfulness), Asteya (non-stealing), Brahmacharya (moderation) and finally, aparigraha (nonattachment). Nonattachment would include treating your cell phone as a security blanket. Not allowing yourself to go anywhere or do anything without it. If you’re cell phone is next to your mat and you are constantly distracted by texts, phone calls, etc. you are wasting your time and your practice is nothing more than just moving your body around on a mat. There is no presence, no focus, no deeper sense of self. It is all just fluff.
So, next time you consider setting your phone next to your mat, think twice. Know that you deserve your time more than anybody else. You deserve your practice, your connection to your breath, your intention. . Allow yourself to fully take advantage of the short time you have to be able to turn everything off and tune in to your mind and body. YOU deserve it and you will be able to take away so much more from your practice. Guaranteed.