A few weeks ago I was in a co-teacher’s class for practice. I like partaking in classes as I find the energy contagious and as a teacher myself it is nice to be guided. I also find it helps expand my own teaching and practice.
Before class started I noticed a woman behind me on her phone. She was texting or scrolling or something (that mindless thing you see people do on their phones). I tried to ignore it but ended up asking her very politely if she would just please take her phone outside. She just laughed and ignored my request. I felt as a participant I could ask, provided I was polite, and also because I know the teacher and know that she doesn’t allow phones in her class. Well, as the devil would have it the phone actually rang during the last part of class during the quiet asanas.
I also don’t allow electronic devices into my class. Ok – people have smart watches too now, but I try to be reasonable. (Yes, I am 62 but am as much immersed in this electronic world as anyone else.) Comically I have actually had people in their 40’s and 50’s argue with me when I ask them to leave their phones outside! Of course, there are those who try to sneak their phones in. So what is the big deal with having a phone with you in class?
- Like it or not, even if your phone is on standby or off, it is a distraction. Most people are so used to checking it every few minutes why wouldn’t you have that urge in practice too? And believe me – I have seen people do that over and over in classes where they had phones with them. Even if you resist that urge, you think about it.
- It IS a distraction for other participants. For some it is for the same reasons it is a distraction for you. But for many people yoga is not just a physical workout. For a whole lot of people it is a space where they can safely practice. This includes being in a space that is free from distractions for them. There are also many people for whom yoga practice is a spiritual engagement. It is reasonable for any yoga participant to expect that they can practice in a quiet and good environment.
- Even if you have your phone on silent, it could very well receive a call or text during practice. How many people in this society have the will power to ignore that? Besides, why bring it in to class in the first place then?
- If you look at the eight limbs of astanga yoga, there are so many considerations there: just to name a few, in the first limb of Yama, there is Ahimsa – non violence. Isn’t stomping all over someone’s fair expectation to have a quiet and distraction free practice a violent disregard? What about Ishvara Pranidhana – surrendering to a power higher than oneself? Oh wait – is that higher power your phone?
- During each asana, we are reminded to remain mindful. Yoga Sutra 1.33 discusses how consciousness arises by radiating friendliness, compassion, delight and equanimity toward all things. 1.34 says: Or by pausing after breath flows in or out. 1.35 says: Or by steadily observing as new sensations materialise. How does one do all these things when your phone is right there next to you? Again the question: why bring it in in the first place?
- What about attachment? Again returning to the Sutras, 1.37 says: Or by focusing on things that do not inspire attachment. People attached to their phones?? Surely not!
Finally, and by no means least, consider the meaning of vinyasa: we place steps in a particular pattern, to create a sacred space. That “sacred” could mean anything to you – a quiet space, a space where you can mindfully practice. Even if practicing yoga is for you simply a series of exercises the majority of people in the class appreciate the safe space they can practice whatever yoga means to them. As the teacher and the person in charge of that room it is my responsibility to ensure that the space is safe for everyone. I WILL ask you not to bring your phone into my class. Count on it.
I have some opinions on the observed and mindless addiction to their phones that so many people demonstrate but won’t go into all that now.
I guess my point is – if you have no intention to use or glance at your phone during yoga practice (as so many people emphatically assure me….), why on earth would you want it with you in your practice? And also – just consider others too. Everyone does not have exactly the same point of view you may have on the constant use of phones.
Be mindful – Namaste