Turn Off Your Cell Phone?

DISCLAIMER: I reserve the right to change my mind, tweak, alter and utterly contradict the views expressed in this article at any time that seems appropriate :­).

Certainly cell phones have no place in the classroom. For many of us, our yoga asana class is the only time of day when we get to be truly unplugged. Of course, in 2015 that sanctuary has been invaded with iphones, tablets, and soon...the apple watch. I haven't seen one in class yet, but I'm sure the time is coming. So how as teachers do we enforce this policy and protect the ability for our students to unplug? Certainly there is the more parental approach, reminding students every class to put their phones away. There is also the more wrathful approach — actually calling out students for texting on the mat — which, if you know the student well enough, may be appropriate. Recently a digital approach seems to be more and more popular too — subtly or directly shaming students on social media for using phones in the studio. With more and more internet memes and social media posts about putting your cell phone away in yoga class and else where, I thought I'd chime in with a slightly different point of view.

Have you ever been told by a friend that you absolutely must check out this thing (band, tv show, Netflix documentary, restaurant) and just completely ignored them? Like a good friend they keep reminding you that you have got to hop on the bandwagon, because they just know that you'll love this thing. Years may pass and you'll still be somewhat dismissive of the suggestion. And then, one fateful day, you'll stumble upon this thing and absolutely be hooked. Why? — because of the thrill of discovery.

This works with negative habits as well. I remember berating my grandmother for years as a kid about quitting smoking. In college, after years of not seeing her, I noticed that she came for a visit sans cigarettes and the accompanying tobacco smell. She said she had just decided it was time to quit.

As teachers and practitioners we have to understand that our ability to stay present — and therefore our annoyance with students on the mat texting — is something that we have cultivated through practice. And even in light of all that practice we all get caught in our technological lives and miss opportunities to #lookup — or whatever the current hashtag is encouraging people to stop looking at their phones.

When I catch myself getting lost — again a skill that has been learned through practice — I often take a moment to quickly contemplate why I am lost in my device. Mostly, it's because I don't want to feel the overriding emotion of that moment — anger, sadness, anxiety, boredom.

I don't think it's artful or even useful to berate people about their habits that we judge as rude or inappropriate. Instead we can perhaps trust the Yoga practice — yes capital "Y" Yoga practice — to show our students they might in fact feel better if they put down the phone and pay attention. And when the phone rings in the middle of class, we can perhaps approach it with a sense of humor and compassion, because let’s face it — it has totally happened to us before.