My WTF Yoga Moment

Yoga has the potential to change reality. Think about it: Everyday people in Boston and around the world, step onto yoga mats feeling one way (tired, stressed, inflexible, depressed), only to discover that reality shifts drastically through postures, breathing, and meditation. Quicker than one can say “Namaste,” yogis depart class feeling energized, peaceful, limber, and happy.

Unfortunately, this didn’t happen for me in a yoga class I attended recently.

Instead, I experienced one of the biggest WTF yoga moments of my life. And after 16 years of practicing yoga — with 10 as a teacher — I’ve witnessed a fair share of yoga drama. There was the time a woman was forcibly removed from a class and banned from returning to that studio for life. Then, there was the teacher who made a pass at me at a workshop. Or, 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).

All the above drama, debauchery, diet-policing, and denim-wearing aside, I’ve never quite experienced the simple shock that comes from hearing a cell phone ring during yoga class … then watching a woman stand up from half-pigeon pose … wait for it … yes, you guessed it … and ANSWER HER PHONE.

Next, she proceed to walk the length of the yoga studio while 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 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 first-year resident through open-heart surgery while trapped in a broken elevator shaft with a dying patient. These are all possible scenarios. Scenarios, yes, but highly unlikely.

To her credit, the teacher kept her focus on the rest of the class (comprised of about 40 other people who weren’t 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 own yoga students in class, I honestly don’t think I could have been so nonchalant.

I know it’s not quite the same as answering one’s phone in church, but it felt a tad too close. After all, yoga is a spiritual practice — for some more than others, apparently.

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 [yoga] 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, here we are, cell phone yoga lady and me, walking the same path. You’re there, too, along with all your favorite people 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 path of spirituality, or, at the very least, cell phone etiquette.

How did I forget this?

Whether yogi or not, nobody needs to accept harmful or disrespectful behavior, but we do need to share the path with everyone. I am so happy for this reminder that I thought I’d share it with you. I should share it with everyone I know. Quick, somebody give me a cell phone.

Have you ever had a WTF yoga or cell phone moment?