A WTF Yoga Moment

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.

(Photo: Om Yoga Center, New York, NY)

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 shit crazy in all the ways I was thinking about going bat shit 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.

Share your biggest WTF yoga moments by posting a comment.

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  • YogSutras

    Nice blog on health, Yoga principles.
    It will help for yoga novices to know more about it.

  • AbbyThompson

    Biggest WTF also involves a cellphone user. I teach a weekly class at a local university and not once but TWICE the same woman's phone rang. She jumped up off her mat, rummaged to get her phone out of her bag, answered the call, and then proceeded to inform the person that she was at yoga and would call them back when class was done. ::facepalm::
    The first time I was able to just ignore it. We were in the middle of Sun Bs so there was plenty to distract me, but the second time I was annoyed. Really, really annoyed. Maybe it wasn't very yogic of me but after class I gently asked her to turn her phone off before coming into class or if she was expecting an important call, put her phone on vibrate and set up her mat near the door so she can step out and take the call.

    Thank you for the reminder that we are all walking the same path. It's good to remember that. :)

  • Samantha Mabry

    I was a newbie and struggling through one of my first hot yoga classes. Admittedly, I was being a drama queen, as I was very hot, inflexible and confused. This was, apparently, obvious to all – including the teacher who came up to me and told me to, for the remainder of class, sit still on my mat because I was "stealing other students' energy." I was so ticked. I basically interpreted this as "you don't belong here." So, I never went back to that studio. Now I'm a teacher and would never dream of saying something so alienating.

  • juan antonio fernandez

    she's an amateur. i recommend practicing with an ear-piece. it allows me to answer the phone and speak without ever parting from the half-pigeon.

  • Nicole

    I've had a couple cell phone moments happen during classes both when I was a student and a teacher. Even when phones are on vibrate, they are still distracting to the rest of the room, especially when the phone's owner ignores said vibrating phone and for the rest of my savasana, I'm wondering if the goddamned vibrations through the hardwood floor are going to stop or if I need to REALLY test my meditation skills.

    However, my WTF moment truly came a couple years ago. I understand that some styles and some teachers and some studios facilitate interaction during class, but this was not one of those classes or times during class when talking or partnering is encouraged. We were mid-flow, and I was balancing in my Warrior 3 when some woman behind me started asking the instructor questions – asking for help to allow her to stay in the pose (STOP TALKING, first of all), asking the instructor why she structured her flow the way she did, etc. I was shocked. And slightly pissed that she was the reason I fell out of my pose and lost my flow.

  • Aja

    Glad the teacher didn't go bat-shit crazy, but I do hope she talked to the cell phone culprit – I wish people had better yoga manners. I think I have been pretty lucky, not too many WTF moments – although I did once pass out in a Kundalini class. I can hold my arms over my head and do bhastrika for only so long :)

  • Sara

    Just saw this tonight. I have just finished a year long YTT and last week a yoga teacher left her phone on in class (she wasnt teaching but she is a teacher). It rang, she apologised…. but she didnt turn it off. So for the rest of the class I was distracted thinking her damn phone is going to beep again…

    I LOVE your blog!

  • http://flyingyogini.org Nancy

    I had a student ask me to not resuscitate them or call an ambulence if they had an issue, a student demand a specific pose (completely different than what we were doing in the middle of class), and roofers start retarring a roof during Savasana.

    your post was a treat to read

  • Morgan

    OMG this JUST happened to me. I was so blown away by it that I actually googled “answering your phone in yoga class” just to find some peace that I wasn’t the only one to have ever experienced this. I wasn’t expecting that little lesson at the end though. Thank you for that and reminding me to keep a yogi mind and heart :)