Student rolling out mat getting ready for yoga class with mobile smartphone close by

Cell Phones in Yoga Class?

Charlotte Bell
Updated: 
November 29, 2021

A few years ago there was a yoga culture controversy over a teacher who was fired from a corporate yoga class for discouraging cell phone use in her class. Hired by a company to provide a yoga break for employees, the teacher shot a student a disapproving look when that student interrupted practice to tap out a text in the middle of class. Apparently, the dirty look was enough to get the teacher fired.

Whether or not you approve of cell phones in yoga class, I suppose a corporation that hires a teacher has the right to let that teacher go if she is not following their rules. That’s probably fair.

By the same token, a teacher has every right to set parameters about a whole range of student behaviors, including allowing or disallowing cell phones in yoga class. Again, the situation gets murky when that teacher is representing a corporation with its own set of rules. Still, it seems a little odd that the teacher’s employer’s first response would be to fire her rather than make her aware of their specific cell phone rules and give her another chance.

For the record, while I recognize them as a useful—and sometimes life-saving—tool, I’m not married to my cell phone. By the time I finally got one—at the insistence of my partner—most of my friends had been using them for years. 

I also recognize that smartphones have great utilitarian potential. And as a yoga teacher, having some way of taking people’s credit cards as payment for classes is crucial. People just don’t carry checkbooks around anymore.

Cell Phones in Yoga Class

I very much appreciate being unreachable at times. As an introverted type, I need alone time, without the distractions of phone calls and emails, in order to function at my full potential. The idea of setting my phone next to my mat in my home yoga practice—let alone in a class—so that I can keep up with my emails, phone messages or Facebook feed is unthinkable. When I’m practicing yoga and meditation, my practice works better and feels better if I focus on what’s happening in my body/mind in the present moment.

Calming, quieting forward fold -Paschimottanasana with bolster.

All this said I have not banned cell phones in yoga class. This is not because I think it’s okay for students to text, talk, tweet, or Facebook in class. It is because my students are mature and considerate enough to understand that fussing with a phone in yoga class would be inconsiderate to everyone else in the class. I’ve never had to spell out a cell phone rule. My students just get it. 

Are Cell Phones Ever Appropriate in Yoga Classes?

From what I’ve read in the yoga blogosphere, this is not always the case. In larger studios, people do keep their cell phones with them, ringers on, and answer-ready. If this is the teacher’s and studio’s wish—to allow cell phones in yoga class—if all parties know this when they enter into a class situation, then it is certainly their prerogative to come to that agreement. This would not be a class I would want to attend or teach, and that is my prerogative. We all have choices.

There have been maybe a dozen instances over my 33 years of teaching in which a student has alerted me to the fact that she may receive a phone call in class because of some emergency situation. These students have always left the room to talk, and have always let me know beforehand. I am completely fine with this. We all have lives outside yoga, and some things are more important than uninterrupted practice. Fortunately, my other students can roll with these situations.

If you’re a teacher, do you allow cell phones in yoga class? If you’re a student, would you like to be able to use your phone in class, or are you happy for the technology break?

 

Judith Hanson Lasater, Yoga teacher, Restorative Yoga, YogaU presenter, the Yoga Sutras and yoga philosophy

 

Reprinted with permission from Charlotte Bell/Hugger Mugger Yoga Products Blog.

Charlotte Bell.2

 

Charlotte Bell began practicing yoga in 1982 and began teaching in 1986. She was certified by B.K.S. Iyengar in 1989 following a trip to Pune. In 1986, she began practicing Insight Meditation with her mentors Pujari and Abhilasha Keays. Her asana classes blend mindfulness with physical movement. Charlotte writes a column for Catalyst Magazine and serves as editor for Yoga U Online. She is the author of two books: Mindful Yoga, Mindful Life, and Yoga for Meditators, both published by Rodmell Press. She also edits Hugger Mugger Yoga Products' blog and is a founding board member for GreenTREE Yoga, a non-profit that brings yoga to underserved populations. A lifelong musician, she plays oboe and English horn in the Salt Lake Symphony and the folk sextet Red Rock Rondo whose 2010 PBS music special won two Emmys.