Yoga Teacher Fired for Dirty Look. Blames Texting Student, Facebook Culture

Piper Weiss, Shine Staff


Ever had your phone ring in a yoga class? It's like you just entered the prom naked. In a world wired for constant communication, yoga class is one of the last places where pings, rings and vibrations are grounds for reproach.

"It's about respect for instructor, and those in class," yoga teacher Alice Van Ness explained to ABC News.

Up until a few weeks ago, Van Ness taught yoga to Facebook employees at the company's Bay Area campus. But an etiquette conflict between the ancient practice and the modern world changed all that.

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It began when a student (and Facebook employee) began texting during class. Total downward don't.

Van Ness claimed she gave a "disapproving look," elsewhere described as a "stink-eye." When the unidentified employee left class to finish her text and later complained about the bad vibes coming from the teacher, Karma was a b----.

Van Ness says she was fired by Plus One Health Management, the parent company that operates Facebook Fitness Center, just two weeks after the incident.

In her termination letter, she says she was accused of "making a spectacle" of the texting student by stopping class to glare at her.

"They sent me packing," Van Ness told Mercury News, "they didn't even want to hear my side of the story." (Plus One has yet to respond to media requests.)

Here's her side of the story: Van Ness, like most instructors, requests students turn off their phones before class. So when she was demonstrating a difficult 'half moon pose' for students, she was stunned that one of them would simultaneously be using their phone.

"I just looked at her with this look of utter disbelief. Like, 'Really? You're going to do that right now?'" Van Ness told ABC News. "I don't believe there's anything that could be going on at Facebook that couldn't wait a half an hour."

That may be true but not every boss would agree. Van Ness can vouch for that.

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Facebook does not require their employees keep their phones on during work hours, according to a company spokesperson. But if you work for a major technology company, you know timely responses during work hours are expected. They're also, at times, involuntary. When you spend so much of your day connected, disconnected isn't as easy as it looks.

These days, there's a growing impasse between yogis who see connectivity as a blessing for a growing industry (namely thanks to tech employers, web promotions and podcast tutorials) and those who see it as a hazardous distraction.

Put Van Ness is category B. She now considers her termination a blessing and has decided to ditch offers from Silicon Valley's plethora of company-funded classes altogether. "The culture of these places is to let them do whatever they want," she told the San Francisco Chronicle. "And I'm just not really OK with anarchy."

Anarchy, really? It almost makes you question the sincerity of that end of class "namaste."

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