Yoga Philosophy 101: How Yoga Can Help You Be More Mindful in the Digital Age

Judith Hanson Lasater shares inspiration from the classic yogic text, the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, for developing a more mindful relationship with technology.

Yoga Journal co-founder Judith Hanson Lasater, PhD, and her daughter, Lizzie Lasater, have partnered with YJ to bring you a six-week interactive online course on Patanjali’s Yoga Sutra. Through study of this fundamental text, the Lasaters, with more than 50 years of combined teaching experience, will support you in deepening your practice and broadening your understanding of yoga. Sign up now for a transformative journey to learn, practice, and live the sutra.

For all the ways that smartphones, social media, and near-constant WiFi access have improved our lives—and there are many—life in the digital age comes with its fair share of new challenges and complications.

All of those distractions can make it harder to be mindful. Finding stillness in Savasana (Corpse Pose) becomes a little harder when your attention is constantly being pulled away from the here and now by the ping of notifications and the lure of multitasking. So what’s the solution? According to master yoga teacher Judith Hanson Lasater, PhD, it starts with becoming more aware of the habits that are keeping us from living in the present.

Here, Lasater shares inspiration from the classic yogic text, the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, for developing a more mindful relationship with technology.

Yoga Journal: There are so many things in our lives today that make it incredibly easy to not to be present moment. Do you think technology affects our level of awareness and presence?
Judith Hanson Lasater: It really does. We should write on our phones “Put me down, now. Smell the roses.” The thing I love most in the world must be my cellphone, because it’s never more than an arm’s reach from me, all night and all day. There it is. It’s a wonderful thing and it’s saved lives, and I wouldn’t want to go backwards. But we need boundaries. I don’t take my cell phone into my yoga room. We don’t need black and white, but we do need more grey at this point in our use of technology. We need some time away.

YJ: How do we begin to do that?
JHL: I think we have to parent ourselves a bit. It takes courage and strength and discipline and support from others around us to actually disconnect, and we need to do that. Our nervous systems are exhausted. People are desperate to learn how to do nothing, how to be. That’s why they love restorative yoga. It’s so healthy to do nothing for 20 minutes a day and to rest. Stress is the biggest problem in our world. A relaxed person doesn’t want to kill someone. A relaxed person doesn’t want to do harm. Rage in traffic, early death, poor health—it’s all related to stress. Reducing our stress and understanding the nature of our mind, which Patanjali is teaching us, and learning why we create this stress is so important. We have these great tools now of new technologies, and they’re wonderful, but they create stress. Everyone needs a Sabbath, whether they’re religious or not. We need a Sabbath day in our week.

YJ: In your own teaching over the years, have you made any observations about the how technology might be seeping into many students’ yoga practices?
JHL: Well, I’ll tell you my experience. I’ve been teaching yoga for the past 45 years and I’ve taught it in almost every state of the U.S. and on six continents. In the past 5–7 years it has become increasingly and noticeably difficult for people to lie still in Savasana—especially people under 45 years old. I think that could be what you’re alluding to—the constant pull of multi-tasking.

YJ: What are some practices based on the Yoga Sutra that people who are really tech-overloaded might be able to do to get the relaxation they need?

JHL: Try slowing down. Sometimes you’re in the airport and you might have to go quickly from one gate to another to make your connecting flight, or you may have to get somewhere quickly to pick up your child. I’m not talking about not moving quickly when it’s necessary, but what I’m talking about is not adding on the mental turmoil of, “Oh my God, I’m late. I have to get there. Hurry, up, hurry up.” What I’ve learned to do when I’m running late is just to slow down a little bit, and it actually doesn’t make me any later.

I’m going to go from point A to point B, and it’s going to take as long as it takes. Am I going to be in turmoil, or am I just going to move in the direction of point B the best I can and not react?

This interview has been lightly edited for length and clarity.