By Bradley S. Handley

Admit it. You’re addicted. It started innocently enough. Maybe just once at dinner. Sometimes twice, depending on company. Then you lost control. Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Snapchat. It never really mattered, as long as it kept you busy. Even for that extra 30 second wait behind some philistine who somehow had never been to 5 Points Pizza.

I’ll come clean, I’m addicted too. Probably worse than you and have been for a long time. Back in my day, you used to actually open the app to figure out what’s going on. Unthinkable, I realize. Nowadays, apps come to you with whatever trivial minutiae their people think you’ll want to hear about. And we eat it up.

Last week, Mark Zuckerberg announced that, for the first time ever, one billion people used Facebook in a single day. That is to say that about 14% of the world’s population checked in to ol Zuck’s website to do whatever people do on Facebook (in my case, posting a picture of me and my goofy dog on National Dog Day. See above).

In these weird, connected times, we have allowed ourselves to become grossly enamoured in the things happening to other people and wanting those same people to think that interesting things are happening to us. We have forgotten how to enjoy who and what is happening around us. Many of us even routinely endanger ourselves and those around us by using our phones while driving.

I tried a few things to cure myself. I put my phone on silent, and turned off most app notifications. I even locked the infernal distractor in my desk drawer at work. I would relapse, again and again.

A careful perusal of the Yoga Etiquette portion of this website will reveal a crucial element to my ongoing rehabilitation. Specifically, I’m referring to the section that reads, “Do not bring personal items (such as cell phones, purses, keys) into the yoga room other than your mat, towel, and water bottle.” This notion was honestly off-putting to me at first blush. What if work called? What if mom got in an accident? What if a million other things happened that I couldn’t be aware of and respond to at that very moment?

It’s silly, I know, but for the first time since the advent of the smartphone, I was disallowed to bring my digital companion along with me. This separation was a lot different than locking it away in my desk. It is the difference between a mandatory and voluntary surrender.

My digital disconnection, however, has only been the beginning. In yoga, we are taught to not think about our performance in past postures, and to not worry about postures that are forthcoming. This was a difficult proposition and did not come naturally. In addition to those concerns, my brain also enjoys reminding me of everything worrisome in my life.

The trouble is, these things all distract you from concentrating on your breathing. Your breath quickly becomes the most important factor in your practice, and can mean the difference between staying on your feet for the entire session and feeling amazing or spending most of your time in the floor and being miserable.

Once I discovered how to let these unhelpful thoughts fall away, my practice instantly improved. Sure, the occasional looming work deadline or other personal matter sometimes force their way through, but the more I attend class, the better I become at ignoring them.

This focus has begun to trickle into other parts of my life as well. I am able to concentrate at work for longer periods without feeling the need to check whatever phone jiggle or alert is constantly vying for my attention. I have also started turning my phone face-down in social situations (which handily ignores all notifications), allowing me to give my full attention.

It’s an ongoing process, and I still need a lot of work, but the focus I have gained from my practice at Hot Yoga of East Nashville has been amazing and I’m excited to see what other surprising benefits are just around the corner.