Facebook Firing Highlights Imbalances

Breaches of yoga etiquette happen all the time,
and are usually quickly forgotten. That is far from the case with a recent
incident that happened during a class at Facebook
. Not only did a student in
this class demonstrate that she felt her phone deserved more attention and
respect than her practice, the instructor or the other students, she felt it
was necessary to complain about the look the instructor gave her for her
behavior. In an equally dazzling disregard for the entire yogic discipline, the
instructor was fired for the incident.
The story has blazed across the Internet as an amusing and sad commentary on
our addiction to constant stimulation. Underneath the absurdity of this
scenario lies a common human weakness: we are often strongly drawn towards
practices that perpetuate our imbalances rather than address them.

Like the strongly pitta
personality that insists they are only fulfilled by hot fast-paced practices,
or the kapha
person that revels in restorative classes, it seems many high tech employees
want yoga classes they give only part of their attention to. According to Alice
Van Ness
, the now infamous yoga teacher, coming in late, leaving early, and
an inability abandon phones or relax are overwhelmingly common with this crowd.

Some believe that distracted
yoga is better than no yoga at all
; yet the pitta person still needs
cooling, the kapha person still needs cardio exercise, and the obsessive multi-tasker
still needs to practice stillness and focus. This is how we achieve balance; we
include in our practice not just the things we like, want, or find easy, but
the things that may be uncomfortable or don’t come as easily to us.

Most yoga teachers truly want to help their students achieve
this balance. When the woman pulled her phone out in the midst of half moon
pose, the teacher said nothing. She only gave her a look; granted, it was the
look that both parents and teachers know, the look that says ‘you know better’.
What many children and students don’t understand is how much caring can be
behind those looks. Van Ness later commented, “Really? Your e-mail
is more important than understanding your body? It’s more important than taking
time for you? It’s more important than everyone else here?” Clearly
not understanding this concept, the student reported that she felt Van Ness
made a spectacle of her. If she still doesn’t get it, the irony of the
situation is probably passing her by, too.

We are clearly a culture out of balance when we can complain
about the negative consequences of our own bad behavior and expect someone else
to be punished. Companies like Plus One Health Management, the company Facebook
contracts to teach fitness classes, help us perpetuate our imbalances. In
response to the firing of Van Ness they commented, “unless
a client requires us to specifically say no to something, we prefer to say yes
whenever possible.
” Even if that means running towards those imbalances
full steam ahead.

Has the struggle to survive been replaced with
the desire to remain comfortable at all times? What do you think about the firing at Facebook?

Comments 4

  1. If the teacher actually said all those things in front of the class and scolded her about her behavior in front of everyone then the teacher was out of line as well. You can’t shame a student into doing or knowing better. Nobody wants to b called out in front of others she could have taken her aside and spoken with her. It seems to me that one bad behavior triggered another. The teacher giving a “look” that we all know but can be infused with “caring” well it can also be one filled with judgement we can’t really say can we? If the teacher said those things in front of everyone else they were right to fire her. This is a place of business and obviously the teacher wasn’t equipped to deal with what teaching in such a place would entail. It is a special breed of yoga that any truly “present” teacher can teach mindfulness by example first. There is no way you can expect to reprimand people into mindfulness especially in front of others. Peace.

  2. It’s true, you can’t and shouldn’t try to shame someone into proper etiquette. Just to clarify, the teacher actually said nothing in class, other than the reminder at the beginning to turn phones off. The comments were made in interviews after she was fired. They are her explanation of why she stands by the rule, and the look.

    My point was not to judge the teacher or the student, but rather to point out how hard it can be to let go of things that do not serve us, even in our yoga, meditation, or other spiritual practices.


  3. One of my favorite cell phone moments was when I was in a yoga class and someone’s phone starts ringing and the instructor said “we are going to stay in this (very challenging) pose until someone turns that phone off.” It was said in a fun playful way and the owner quickly took care of the issue and we are all happy to get out of that pose.

  4. My favorite ringing phone moment was in a very crowded Mark Whitwall class… as it rang he cracked “must be someone trying to get into class”. Light heartedness can dissolve anything. He embodies not resisting whatever arises and therefore not reinforcing it and dissolving it in Love.

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