5.7
July 7, 2012

I Was Fired From the Facebook Gym for Asking a Student not to Use her Phone During Class. ~ Alice Van Ness

When the telephone was first invented, some people were annoyed that this technology was now able to interrupt dinner.

Now the phone fits in your pocket and is also a gaming system, alarm clock and personal computer.

It interrupts everything—yoga class, lunch with a friend and sometimes sleep.

Maybe we’ve given it too much power. Does it have so much power over us that it keeps us from connecting in real life?

A few weeks ago, I was teaching my weekly noon yoga class at the Facebook Fitness Center in Menlo Park, CA.

They have a little gym there where I taught a yoga class, in addition to Pilates and cycling classes.

Right before class began, a student was typing on her phone. Noticing this, I asked the whole class to turn off their cell phones.

She obliged, put it down next to her mat, and we began.

Halfway into class, right as I was starting a demo of ardha chandrasna (half moon pose), she decided to check her phone.

I stopped talking and looked at her.

I said nothing, but I’m sure my face said it all. “Really? Your email is more important than understanding your body? It’s more important than taking time for you? It’s more important than everyone else here?”

Oh, and by the way, she was in the middle of the front row.

She stepped out and rejoined class a few minutes later. Apparently, she had gone to complain to management.

Previously, I had been asked by management to just let the students do whatever they wanted.

Come in late, leave early, answer emails, come in during class to get weights, take photos for the newsletter—whatever came up, I was told to just say yes.

So, on this day, I didn’t actually say anything to this student. I just looked at her with utter disbelief.

Two weeks later, I was fired from the Facebook gym.

I contested the decision at the time since I didn’t actually ask her to leave.

They had already made their decision.

What has happened that work or updating a status is more important than being in the moment? Are we so incapable of disconnecting? What could be going on that couldn’t wait 30 minutes? This is not the emergency room; it’s just Facebook.

The first time I taught at Facebook I started class with a short meditation.

One student was completely incapable of sitting still and closing her eyes for those three minutes. She fidgeted and looked around, visibly uncomfortable with those few minutes of silence. The more she resisted, the more uncomfortable she seemed to become. Her behavior was similar in savasana.

Facebook and all these smart phones have invaded our lives and now we are addicted to being connected via technology. What are we afraid of missing online?

What I have seen over my years of practicing yoga is that technology and being “connected” electronically is depriving us (myself included) of connecting to the present moment.

I welcome my yoga practice as the one place where I don’t have to look at my phone.

I enjoy connecting to my breath and forgetting everything else. It’s a pure time. It’s a much needed break from the stress or drama that is going on.

As the yoga teacher, I want to you experience that break too.

I know you need it, just like a mom knows her three-year-old needs a nap. It’s a little like an addiction.

We can’t stop ourselves. Even when we know it’s not the right time to pick up the phone, we do.

The cost of being constantly connected is high.

When we live a life disconnected to ourselves, it’s living in the surface.

You are constantly on edge, unable to relax and be in any moment as it is.

Plus, it’s very distracting for everyone else in the room, not to mention rude—and it’s vital to pay attention to instructions/demos from your teacher so you can understand the pose better, feel better and avoid injury.

More importantly, yoga is your time to pay attention to yourself. Connect you to you.

The hour or so of disconnecting from the outside is necessary.

Technology invading your peace is not just in yoga class. Start to notice how many times per hour you reach for your phone.

Is something coming up in the silence or stillness of that moment that makes you uncomfortable, or is it boredom?

I encourage everyone to have someplace in their day where there is no television, no phones, no distractions. It may be hard at first but that is where mindfulness begins.

Alice Van Ness is a teacher and writer in the San Francisco Bay Area. Alice has been teaching yoga since 2006 and practicing since the 1990’s. She enjoys yoga, Pilates, cycling, photography and the ceramic arts. She is currently writing a book about growing up and going to high school in Palo Alto.

She has been trained in the Anusara Yoga method but has not dated John Friend. Alice makes her classes fun, while challenging students to go deeper. She is a humorous, passionate, knowledgeable, and giving instructor. She works with students of all ages and abilities, teaching both children’s and family yoga. Alice has worked with children since she was a teenager and finds them to be a great reminder to stay in the present and have fun.

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Editor:  April Dawn Ricchuito

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