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

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Not Zen By ronk53

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.

Photo: skinny-secret.com

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

  1. Papu says:

    Maybe, that student was a corporate spy, trying to see if you were following rules. I understand that the student's behavior was disrespectfully and distracting

  2. persefoni says:

    The unfortunate fact is – you were an employee for Facebook. And if your employer says "anything goes" you follow their rules, and don't create rules that don't fall in line, or you find a new job. It sucks, but that's corporate America for ya.

  3. […] 5. Don’t text during yoga class (unless you work for Facebook). […]

  4. joelsindc says:

    Great article Alice! I wonder, the person who let you go – how would they feel to be in yoga class with someone next to them on the phone.

  5. John Geary says:

    That gym really needs to give its head a shake! The whole reason for doing yoga is to put all that other stuff aside for a little while. Anybody who wants to be constantly checking an iPhone should forget about doing yoga. If I was in that class and I found out about that I would go and ask for a full refund and I would tell management why, tell them that firing the teacher is not acceptable they should be expelling the person with the phone. I’m probably more guilty than most of wanting to stay connected with my iPhone however when I’m doing yoga I put it down turn it off because I value that time. If that person doesn’t want to value her time that’s her choice but she should darn well have respect for the other people in the class.

  6. Helene says:

    I work in a very high end resort spa in HI as a massage therapist….many times guests come in for massage or body treatments either alone or as a couple and spend the whole 50 or 80 minutes gossiping about friends or talking on their phones, etc….it's not how i would relax at a spa but im not the client…only providing a service and if the client feels its relaxing to spend their whole massage time checking emails then who am i to judge whether it is or isnt for the guest. I would never give a guest a glare if they decide to do something contrary to what i believe is the "proper" way to receive massage..quiet and dark with soft music….NOT….i think if anybody should have a problem with it it is the other students who are in the class and its their responsibility to take it up with their company..especially if they already told you to let the employees do what they want….ld look for another employer that fits my lifestyle rather that judget the ones that dont…aloha!!

  7. lovelaughsunshine says:

    Alice I read a lot of responses before I decided to write a response. In analysing how you or other yoga teachers who sympathize with you, the student's point of view is completely ignored. Corporate employment environments are very different from what most yoga teachers will experience in their lives. Sad but true. Very few yoga teachers have had exposure to that existence and that is okay, but just like we do not want to be judged as hippies, why judge others as erratic, out-of-touch-with-themselves technonuts?

    If we have not worked a high pressure job, it is impossible for us as teachers to identify with our students in that demographis. The only way to deal with people we do not understand is compassion, genuine compassion. I am not implying you join the rat race, but calling out what her reasons might or might not have been based on your assumptions is not balanced or compassionate in any way. It *is* judgemental. And it is not okay to subject others with our harshness and claim it is okay because we feel our chagrin is justified.

    Hard facts:
    1. you agreed to FB rules, you broke them, but you are furious because a student did not abide to yours? And for that matter how do you know or presume to know what emplyees are told before a class? Maybe the student was recommended your classes by HR for a 'work-life-balance' program (yeah, the irony), and they were stressed they could not be on call during that time? Maybe their managers demand of them to be on call. In the technology workspace, an emergency can happen anytime and I actually had a friend who was kicked out of a movie theater for taking calls. Difference is, it was not a corporate campus theater, so my employer could not take action against them. Do you think that is what my friend wanted, the humiliation, the feeling that they were chained all the time?

    – all training that is offered at tech-campuses is optional, free-will, life-career enhancement, but at the end of the day, work comes first. You fail completely to grasp that. It is fine if you do not agree with that but you cannot gripe about because you do not generate revenue for them, but through them yourself.

    2. You were passive aggressive – stopped teaching what you were to give her a cold stare. You might have as well said out those words. You specify your intent, but refuse to take responsibility for your self-justified hostility arguing that you did not verbalize your thoughts.

    3. it is not the students who are paying for your classes, it is actually fb, your classes fall in the 'perks' category, so if the other students have a recourse: they can address the issue with HR. Whether you like to hear it or not, it is your ego that created this mess for yourself.

    4. It is not so much about the students, it is about the loving heart you have. I would have taken the student aside at the end of the class and asked them how they were dealing with their work, or if something was stressed and then force what I feel a peaceful, wise lifestyle should be down their throats.

    5. While you are getting all riled up and spreading the negativity with such heartfelt indignation, I suggest you take to a quite corner and meditate on your own actions and intent.

    6. Think before taking employment at a place whether or not you can work with their rules.

    7. Stop calling a complete stranger you know nothing about rude and ignorant. What do you think that makes all of us? Phony yogis, just pretending and patting each others back with chakra talk.

  8. […] you are addicted to talking, perhaps you believe that you are being interesting when you go on and on about yourself. However, […]

  9. Nick says:

    As a teacher, you have to be the person who you want your students to be.

    A student takes their cue from their teacher.

    While you may have a bruised heart due to the lack of income that you lost because of a glare given, subtle behavior patterns can prompt unwanted outcomes.

    Some of the oh no she/he didn’t experiences I have had with my teachers. Stopping an invocation mid-sentence because someone was off key. Closing the door in students faces because the class had already started. Telling me that I got my injury because I was to stiff to be practicing yoga. Laughing at someone’s pose. Improperly naming a pose or pranayama technique.

    As an alternative teaching tool you could have focused on the other students who were interested in your demo in a loving way and allowed the distraction to be a fleeting distraction. Hope that helps.

  10. ria says:

    Dear yoga teacher. You are in USA not India. Here you dare give the evil eye and why be surprised when you get fired. The chick whom you gave the look to, earns 10 times more than you do. She is in a materialist world and believes she is invincible.
    You however know better. You know Yoga. Your expectations are NOT high for a yoga class, BUT are high for a yoga class at Facebook. On one hand there in Mysore classes and on the other there is Facebook Gym full of brats.
    The issue here is that you are in the wrong environment. These days everyone is a yoga teacher after doing a 200 hour training. I understand you want to make a living but teaching at FB gym will tug heavily at your strings. Either just keep practicing (say next 15 years) and come back and you'll handle it totally differently or find folks who crave the same etiquette as you.

  11. […] month my story about getting fired from the Facebook Fitness Center was everywhere. It started with a blog, and then three days later reporters were literally knocking […]

  12. […] and works incredibly hard in his career, but it seems that whenever we go out for dinner, he always has one eye and one ear on his BlackBerry. I’m thrilled that he’s so driven and committed to his work—in fact, it’s one of the […]

  13. Wayne says:

    It’s really very difficult in this busy life to listen news on TV,

    so I simply use internet for that purpose, and obtain the

    newest information.

  14. Thanks for finally talking about >I Was Fired From the Facebook Gym for Asking

    a Student not to Use her Phone During Class. ~ Alice Van Ness | elephant journal

    <Liked it!

  15. Example says:

    Aw, this was an extdemely nice post. Taking the time and actual effort to make a good article… but wat can I say… I

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