Have you been at dinner and the person at the next table takes a business call, of which you hear everything? Or at the movies and in front of you, someone is checking their email? Maybe you've been out for a walk and instead of enjoying the scenery, people all around have their earbuds in, missing the first callings of spring. Perhaps that person is you.
We have all become addicted to technology. And with it, the inability to enjoy the present. We must know now what is going on with friends we haven't seen in years, around the world, and answer every email from work straight away, just in case someone else answers the boss first.
This inability to focus our collective attention, for even a few minutes, is permeating society, to the point where you might miss life, as Ferris Bueller said "if you don't stop and look around once in a while." I too was missing life until I found yoga.
That is not to say that yoga has given me, or anyone else who practices regularly, the unique ability to set aside stress, anxiety, and the daily pressures of life. After all, that is life (along with happiness, joy, anger, and pain). But it has given me, and many others, a gift -- a way to deal with the external pulls of life and instead turn inward -- back to life. I am able to walk my dog, for example, without the need to bring my phone. As we walk, I see what he sees and what that is is beautiful -- the first crocuses, robins flitting about, the variations of grass we walk.
Yoga is a gateway exercise. It subtly changes you without you necessarily knowing. A year ago, I would have questioned this. And it's not a revelation like the sun suddenly coming out of the clouds. It happens gradually, and it takes practice every day. I still struggle to put aside my phone at times, or to just sit and reflect. But you do begin to notice life again, in all its splendor. You begin to make different choices including decisions about your health, what you eat, and how you carry yourself, among other benefits.
So here are five ways to get an hour (or more) of your time back every week without any connection to the outside world (on your mat is one of the few places left today where phones are not allowed!):
- Hire a private instructor: Perhaps you are new to yoga and don't feel comfortable practicing with others. You worry about not being flexible enough or how you might look to others. A good instructor will take you through the basics of yoga without any pressure of practicing in a studio.
- Grab a friend: Yoga is one of the fastest growing industries in the country, so it's more than likely a friend is looking for someone to share the benefits of yoga with. Tag along and enjoy.
- Go to a free class: Not sure you want to commit to joining a studio straight away? Most studios offer new students a free class (or classes). Find a studio near you and give it a try.
- Practice at home: This is where technology can be an asset - unroll your mat and access one of the hundreds of yoga practices that are now available online. Find a quiet space in your house and flow.
- Yoga at work: Many businesses today are now trying to help their employees achieve better overall wellness. So, it never hurts to ask the question if yoga at work is an option. Plus, they might pay for it, knowing that it will not only boost morale, but it will also help decrease stress at work.
Yoga isn't a panacea, but it is one real step you can take today to take back control of your life again and step away from your iPhone. Your yoga practice might be your only hour of your day, or week, when you are able to find quiet. Don't let someone you knew 20 years ago, take that away from you. The most interesting moments in life are the ones you can't capture in 140 characters or less.
Amy K. Mitchell, RYT-200 and founder of ProYOGA USA, is a strategic communications expert based in Washington, D.C. She has worked in a variety of positions within the government, the non-profit sector, and journalism. Her yogic focus is on stress relief. She is an avid open-water swimmer, former competitive swimmer, and also enjoys SUP yoga. ProYOGA USA (www.ProYOGAUSA.com), which brings the benefits of yoga to the workplace will open in May 2015. You can follow her on Twitter @ProYOGAUSA or on Instagram at @ProYOGAUSA.