Be honest: Do you ever check social media when you're with the people you love the most? Or even stop during practice to Instagram a yoga selfie? Yoga teacher and Purna Yoga co-founder Aadil Palkhivala, who leads, says this modern malady has physical, social, and emotional consequences, and it's taking away from the self-exploration we do on the mat.
The Problems with Technology Overuse
"Technology was designed to serve us, but we have taken it to the extent where now we are serving it," he bemoans. "The upper back and neck have taken a huge beating in the past 10 years as people have started to use cell phones more and more. I don’t use my cell phone, but when I do I hold it up at a high height so I’m not looking down. Even metaphorically, looking down is very different than looking up. Looking up is aspiration, looking down is dejection. If you look down long enough you will become depressed; therefore, these devices are actually creating a malady."
The social and emotional consequences of technology overuse are just as bad if not worse than the physical consequences, he adds. "To think that someone would use a cell phone under the dinner table shows how out of touch we are with our nervous system. When you use a device like a cell phone, your mind has to become sympathetic, which means it goes into active [mode]. You can only digest food in a parasympathetic response; therefore, if you are using your cell phone, you are not digesting your food [properly]. It is patently absurd and evidence of our complete lack of awareness of our own bodies when we do something as stupid as use a cell phone while eating, and yet I see it all the time. I was at yoga conference last week and I saw entire families sitting around the table all on their cell phones. That is pathetic. We are no longer making eye contact with the people we love or claim to love. On social media, people say they have "friends" they have never met or touched, whose voices they have never heard. Friends whose energy they have not shared in the same room. That's not a friend. Very often I'll see teenagers who would rather be on their cell phone on Facebook with alleged friends than look at their family and talk to them. No wonder so many psychological problems are popping up in our society. We are insecure; we want more friends, more likes. It relates to svadhyaya (self-reflection or self-study), which is one of the niyamas: because we don’t know ourselves, we want others to know us.
What You Can Do on the Mat: Turn Off Your Phone!
Palkhivala says students need to stop texting and pay attention to the moment...and the first thing you can do to make this happen is to turn off your phone. "I just came back from teaching 250 people at a yoga conference in Hong Kong," he shares. "The first day I was stunned, because everybody had a cell phone and brought it to class. They took videos of everything I said, and they were texting while doing practice. Some were on Facebook during class. I could not believe it so much that I didn’t say anything in the first class. The second class I said, 'No cell phones—turn them off.' You should have seen the response—it was almost as if the phone had become an extension of their hand, like they were trying to dislodge a digit. Finally they got it. I want students to pay attention to what is going on! This is your body—your life is happening now, not in the future."
What You Can Do off the Mat: Give Yourself a Moment Without Your Phone
Off the mat, take a moment to connect with friends and family and enjoy nature without your phone, Palkhivala suggests. "Put the phone down and look up. Look into the eyes of the people you claim to love. Look into the eyes of the friend you have. Hold their hand. Feel in your heart compassion and caring for other human beings. A cell phone is in your mind; physical touch and eye contact are in your heart, and yoga is about waking up the heart, not enhancing your already over-busy and overstrained brain. I’m sitting here surrounded by trees and nature...it makes my mind peaceful. Take a walk without your cell phone, and turn it off when you’re doing your practice. Don’t let your cell phone interfere with your self-exploration."
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