facebook fires yoga teacher for banning cell phones in class

Jul 10, 2012 by

Just make sure you update your Facebook status before you go to yoga class, lady. (image via aarp.org)

In our hyper-connected, technology dependent culture, there are few places that are free of cell phones. Yoga classes, in general, tend to be one of those places. Unless you’re talking about yoga classes at Facebook headquarters.

According to SFGate.com, yoga teacher Alice Van Ness was fired after shooting a disapproving glance at a Facebook employee who had disregarded her request to turn off cell phones before classes. Apparently, “saying no to Facebook employees is a no-no.”

“I’m sure my face said it all,” [Van Ness] later said in a blog post. “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?”

The student left class for a few minutes to complete her phone business. She later complained to the fitness center’s managers, and two weeks later, Van Ness’ boss called her into the office and fired her.

Van Ness protested at first, but later decided she would be happier elsewhere. Working at tech companies, she routinely found herself dealing with students who came in late, left early, and fidgeted during short meditations. [via SFGate.com]

Do you find it hard to disconnect yourself from your smartphone for the length of a yoga class? For all the yoga teachers out there: have you tried to enforce a similar policy in your yoga classes? How did the students react?

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17 Comments

  1. I absolutely LOVE that I’m without my cell phone for a whole 90 minutes. I usually leave it in the car so I don’t immediately check it as soon as I leave class. And I’ve definitely given people dirty looks if they bring their phone to class. I mean, really? Is that necessary?

  2. Vision_Quest2

    As an older woman who due to the network-density issues of living in New York City, has been nearly reluctantly dragged kicking and screaming into the smartphone era–a few days ago, I find this firing by Facebook (one of the kings of mobile social networking–on smartphones, etc.) almost painfully ironic. Pardon me for barely successfully suppressing a laugh.. Facebook does not care about their employees’ mental health. I don’t care WHAT business they are in … I’ve been seeing smartphones for about 3 years in my locality and I see people going crazy with headphones and Bluetooths, etc. sometimes.

    I hope Alice Van Ness decides to sue.

  3. I’ve actually found yoga TEACHERS to be the worst cell phone offenders when I taught in studios. walk your talk, teachers.

  4. Is this a joke?
    Well yes, every time I start a class, I remind everyone to switch off their phones. If they forget and the bloody thing rings, they get ZE look. They know it and accept it.
    When I go to a class or practice at home, I am pretty happy to disconnect from my phone and connect with myself. If there’s one space where I don’t allow my phone to come with me, it’s my yoga mat. (ok, bathroom and bedroom too). But then apparently I am weird for actually turning it off at night too.

  5. Since this is a corporate situation, and the teacher was hired by a corporation to provide a service, I suppose the hiring entity has a right to fire her if she is not following their rules.

    However, my own very strong preference is that my students do not use their cell phones in class. Fortunately I’ve never had to make a rule about it. My students are considerate and mature enough to take this as a given. Once in a while, a student will tell me before class that there’s something going on where they may need to answer a call, but that they will leave the room and talk elsewhere if it happens. I’m fine with this, but I can’t imagine why anyone would randomly want to disrupt his/her own and everyone else’s class experience by constantly attending to his/her phone.

  6. “I am weird for actually turning it off at night too.”

    me too. my number is mostly for business so it gets shut off at night and most of the time on weekends, too. do people really expect businesses to answer their phones all night? uh, no. I still have a land line so if someone REALLY needs to contact me, do it the old fashioned way! unless it’s an emergency, I’ll get back to ya on Monday!

  7. I do agree with her getting fired…I don’t think it’s very yoga-esque to give a student a dirty look and take care of the situation the way she did. I also agree that it was very rude of the student. However, who is the yoga “expert” in the room? The instructor, or the student? Clearly the student is TRYING to do something good for herself – she shouldn’t be made to feel uncomfortable by the instructor. As a yoga instructor myself, I’ve nicely asked people to stop doing things or to leave the room – they have NEVER been upset with me and I do it in the nicest way possible to still make them feel welcome and invited. I even tell students to come late because coming late is better than not coming at all!

    • MissP

      What is “yoga-esque”? Biting your tongue? Pretending something doesn’t bother you? The student did not respect the teacher’s wishes, nor did she respect everyone else’s peace.

    • Liz

      As a yoga teacher myself, I still stand up for my right to be treated with respect and consideration. Being a yoga teacher doesn’t mean that we let people run all over us and treat us with disrespect. For most adults, a “look” will convey the message that I deserve to be treated with respect. I consider standing up for my own respect is “being nice” to myself and to others. There’s a difference between “making nice” with everyone and pretending that life is all flowers and hearts and candies and being realistic enough to realize some people have to be woken up and taught some manners and that this is actually doing them a favour.

  8. behavior in yoga classes or other classes is indicative of how people act in society at large. there used to be respect for teachers. of all kinds. if the student had respect for the teacher or the class, she would have ditched the phone and especially not gone running to tell her boss what the big, bad yoga teacher did. can you spell “sense of entitlement”?

  9. MissP

    The student acted entitled and completely self-centered. Oh, the teacher gave you a dirty look? Boohoo. When i do yoga, i don’t want to have electromagnetic waves flying all around me. Turn of your phone!

  10. It amazes me that people even think to take their phones to class. I am attached to my phone, yet I have found more and more frequently after classes I go quite awhile (for me) before checking it. I love that feeling!! I usually have my phone in class, but it’s off. The only reason I bring it in is because I live in Arizona where it would melt in the car.

  11. Liz

    Since when is it NOT RUDE to answer a cell phone in any kind of class? Unless its an emergency, e.g. kids sick, elderly parent in need, etc, etc, its really offensive to answer the phone. People who think differently haven’t learned their manners yet and need to stop being teenagers.

  12. It is not about the teacher. it is not about me (I am a teacher). Unless I own the yoga studio or the corporation, I cannot dictate what goes on there. I can make suggestions to management & hope that they listen, but that is it. She was wrong for taking the phone without speaking to management about what the policy was first.

    I work in a studio where it is culturally okay to come late and leave early. However, my students rarely take advantage of this option while other classes in the studio are almost empty by Svasana. I simply educate the students in a non preachy way on the importance of a good warm up and staying until the end of class.

    If I went out of my way to make a student feel bad about coming late or leaving early, that would be wrong and violate the studio policy. It would also be against Ahimsa, which is non harming.

    There were other ways she could have addressed the situation & still had the same effect. She could have talked about the value of silence in an over stimulated world. She could have shared studies on the value of silence and meditation.

  13. Angela

    I think there’s a difference between making it clear that cell phones in class are not acceptable and shaming someone for breaching that guideline.

    I loath cell phones and find it intensely irritating when one goes off in class but I wouldn’t shoot someone a look – that’s very passive aggressive (I think).

    Instead I would have a quiet word with the student afterwards if I got the chance and begin the next class by gently reminding people to check whether they have their cell phones switched off and explain my reasons for this guideline.

    I actually had a student who’s phone went off in a class yesterday (I rarely have this happen as I teach people over 60 years old … mostly in their 70′s).

    I didn’t get a chance to talk to the student afterwards but I am going to remind everyone before the class starts next week about turning cell phones off.

    This time around I quipped “oh we’ve got a bit of music with our yoga!” and then encouraged people to return to the focus of their breath if their mind had wandered off. The student who’s phone went off didn’t seem at all perturbed but I wouldn’t want her thinking that this is something she can do regularly which is why I will remind everyone about turning off cell phones before class next week.

    All that said, I wouldn’t want to teach classes to younger people who are unwilling to surrender the use of their phones during class … my idea of hell! And quite frankly, FB headquarters would be the last place I would want to work!

  14. I’m always amazed how people behave around their cell phones in classes and in life.

    And people are shocked that I turn off my phone for classes, when I get together with folks and at night. My real life gets my attention over electronic life.

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