Yoga and Personal Technology



We’ve all come into contact with it to an annoying and sometimes downright dangerous result. The person in the erratically moving car in front of us is yakking on their cellphone. The jarring, tinny shreik of the latest hit ringtone goes off right behind you in the theatre as the movie gets to its most suspensful moment. The uber-texter, with their head down and thumbs flying, is on a collision course with you as you’re walking down the street. These situations have all sadly become familiar as we wrestle with our modern day addiction to personal technology.

Here’s another situation and it may be one of the most potentially peace-shattering of all. A cellphone user in a yoga class. That’s right. Somehow, in the middle of a Firefly Pose (Well, maybe not as it would be physically impossible.) but, during a time when the focus should be completely on one’s body, breathing and achieving a sense of harmony, someone is clicking away, or worse yet, their cell phone rings – or even worse yet, they answer it. You might think that the cellphone user in question would be the one displaying unacceptable behaviour, but a recent incident in the U.S. has shown that to not always be the case.

Alice Van Ness, a California yoga instructor was fired from her job after a Facebook employee participating in a class at the company’s headquarters complained that Van Ness had given her a “look of disapproval” when she used her phone to text during the class. The San Jose Mercury News reports that Van Ness tells her students to turn off their cellphones before every class, but the Facebook employee pulled hers out anyway. Two weeks later, Van Ness was dismissed by Plus One Health Management, the fitness company contracted by Facebook to run the classes.

According to a termination letter Van Ness received, the student said that Van Ness had “made a spectacle of her” when she stopped instructing the class and glared at her after she started to use her phone. The Associated Press reports that the letter states that Van Ness was warned prior to the class the she could not enforce a cellphone ban. “We are in the business of providing great customer service. Unless a client requires us to specifically say ‘no’ to something, we prefer to say ‘yes’ whenever possible,” the letter also states. Facebook declined to comment on the incident because Van Ness was not their employee.

While Van Ness says that the firing signified losing a third of her income, she has since been hired elsewhere and is keeping her no-cellphones-during-classes rule.

We asked Padma, host of the Padma Yoga series on the Brand New ONE to weigh in on this issue. She believes that a yoga class and personal technology definitely do not mix and that it can be a “potentially dangerous distraction.”

“A yoga teacher’s main responsibility is to the physical safety of the students present in the class. It is his or her job to create a safe working space; the teacher is responsible for doing his or her best to ensure a safe environment,” Padma explains. “The rule should be clearly stated from the initial class, and agreed upon by participants, that unsafe practices aren’t accepted in the class. If a student needs to do something other than what the teacher is guiding, then they should be free to leave the room at any time, but not expect to do whatever they want within the classroom. This is for the safety of that student and also the other students who might be distracted.”

When teaching her own classes, safety is of paramount importance to Padma. “I make it clear from the initial class and to all joining students that there are certain safety and some courtesy rules in the class that I insist on,” Padma notes. “When students are doing something I do not think is safe, I ask them politely to please stop, and I might kindly let them know that if they need to, they can leave the room and return as soon as they are able. There is never a need for conflict but there is a need for safe conduct in class.”

You can learn more about Padma and Padma Yoga at

Do fitness instructors have the right to restrict this kind of distraction during their classes, or is it more important that people are allowed access to communicate with others at any time? In this day and age, it seems that always staying connected is more necessary. However, we shouldn’t ignore the personal benefits of putting down that PDA for an hour here and there to just breathe.


– by Henry Lees


sources: San Jose Mercury News, Associated Press,