OK to Answer Cell Phone During Yoga Class?


Yoga practice has the potential to change our reality. We step onto our mats feeling one way (tired, stressed, inflexible, sad), only to discover that reality can shift drastically through asana, pranayama, and/or meditation. Quicker than one can say “namaste,” we feel energized, peaceful, limber, and happy.

Unfortunately, this was not the case in a yoga class I attended recently.

Instead, I experienced one of the biggest WTF yoga moments of my life. After 15 years of practicing yoga, witnessing my fair share of eyebrow-furrowing situations as both a teacher and student, that’s saying a lot. There was the time a woman was forcibly removed from a class I was attending and banned from returning to that studio for life. Then, there was the teacher who made a pass at me at a workshop. Another poorly behaved yoga teacher who regularly vilified the dietary choices of students in class.  The person who showed up to a hot yoga class wearing jeans . . . Oh, wait, that was me. I forgot my yoga pants, so I stubbornly did an entire class in my street clothes.  Not recommended. I digress.

The above drama, debauchery, diet-policing, and denim-wearing aside, I’ve never quite experienced the simple shock that comes with hearing a phone ring in yoga class . . . wait, I’m not done yet (unfortunately, un-silenced ringers are common). . . watching a woman stand up from half pigeon pose . . . wait for it . . . yes, you guessed it . . . ANSWER HER PHONE, then proceed to walk the length of the yoga studio TALKING ON HER PHONE, at which point she presumably made herself comfortable in the studio’s lobby and finished her call.

In her defense, it’s possible that this was a crucially important call.  Perhaps the person on the other line was incarcerated, or gravely ill. Perhaps the woman is a surgeon who needed to instruct a nervous resident through open heart surgery while trapped in a broken elevator with a dying patient.

These are all possible scenarios.  But, not likely.

To her credit, the teacher kept her focus on the the rest of the class (comprised of about 40 other people in half pigeon, not on cell phones) and commented that we can only worry about ourselves. She didn’t go bat s**t crazy in all the ways I was thinking about going bat s**t crazy in that moment. Fiercely protective of my students and the experience I help create for them in a yoga class, I honestly don’t think I would have been so nonchalant.

I know it’s not quite the same as answering one’s phone in church, but it felt pretty close. Yoga, above all, is a spiritual practice.

Days later, with the cell phone gaffe still fresh in my mind and visions of how I might have handled the situation had I been teaching, I happened upon some clarity from author and veteran yoga teacher, Judith Lasater, in her book Living Your Yoga:

How do you practice when the environment does not support you or is even openly hostile? It would be easy to separate yourself from those who you decide are not on “the path.” If you relax your view, you may see that it is all one path and that we are all on it.

So, there we are: cell phone yoga lady and me, walking the same path. You’re there too, along with all your favorite om gals and guys and some not-so-favorite ones. Toxic co-workers, estranged relatives, even your ex (yes, that one): they’re all walking with us, at their own pace, down the same spiritual path.

How did I forget this!

We don’t need to accept harmful or disrespectful behavior, but we do need to share the path with everyone. I am so happy for this yogic reminder that I thought I’d share the story with you. I want to share it with everyone I know. Quick, somebody give me a phone. I have some calls to make.

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