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February 27, 2017

What does your cellphone mean to you? What sort of sensations does it bring into your physical body when you have it and when you don't? If your phone runs out of battery or when you have to put your phone away, do you feel anxious and disconnected or relieved and at peace?

As a yoga teacher, watching and experiencing the physical body engage in cellphone use is fascinating. Most of us have our shoulders hiked up to our ears, with a collapsed posture, a tight chest, and often our faces are scrunched up and our jaws are clenched. Our breath is stagnant, and we are disconnected to the here and now, totally not present to our surroundings and environment. At dinner tables, bars, coffee shops, and in other communal situations, many people sit together but are more engaged with their phones than anyone around them.

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So, how can we use our yoga practice as a way to undo some of the digital damage we do to our bodies? Below is a heart-opening, neck-releasing sequence to create the break that your body and mind need to unplug from the phone, as well as a breathing exercise to help you deal with something you might regret posting. Most importantly, put your phone away and turn it off for at least 15 to 20 minutes while you do these exercises. We suggest you watch this yoga series on your laptop or television screen to reach the maximum benefit.

1. Yoga for text neck

Find a comfortable cross-legged seat or bring the soles of your feet together and sit up against a wall to keep the spine long. Drop your right ear over the right shoulder and bring your right hand to left side of head and reach left arm down and away. Feel for the chin slightly tucking down and take six to eight breaths into the left side of your neck. Stay long through the spine and lifted through the chest. Keep those shoulders down away from your ears. Be sure to do both sides of neck and work with eyes closed to stay relaxed and centered.

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Next, do this:

Interlace fingers behind the head just above the neck. Take a deep inhale and bring elbows toward each other. As you exhale, gently tuck chin toward the chest. Breathe 6 to 8 breaths into the back of the neck while maintaining a long spine.

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2. Heart-opening sequence for Instagram withdrawal

Standing with feet hip-distance apart, interlace fingers at low back and reach hands down toward the floor. Close the eyes and feel for the shoulder blades coming together allowing the chest to open up. Breathe right into the collarbones for 6 to 8 breaths.

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Next, try this low runner's lunge twist.

Step your right leg back into a low runner's lunge, and keep your legs hugging in. Press right hand down onto the floor and reach left arm up to sky. Keep left ribs twisting up and right ribs under, shoulders away from ears and breath moving the back ribs. Be sure to repeat on the other side.

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Finally, do reclined butterfly.

Lie on your back in reclined butterfly pose with arms in line with your heart. For an extra opening, place a large pillow at the back of your head, neck, and upper back. Close the eyes and take 10 to 12 deep breaths into your chest. Be sure on your inhales to keep your shoulders relaxed and not hiked up by your ears. Breathe deeply and slowly. We recommend a six-count inhale and six-count exhale. Stay present to the sensations in your body and relax into each breath so that the central nervous system calms down. Getting to a place in your practice where you can relax without feeling the need to check your phone for entertainment and stimulus is key.

3. Breathing exercises for any social media posts you may regret

We have all been there. You receive a text or email that creates certain triggers in our systems that prevent our being mindful or productive. When you feel the urge to shoot back a reactionary response to a text or email, we highly recommend that you don't. If we aren't careful about how we respond, all we create is a drama curve that gets us into a deeper mess than we really want. Remember, drama is merely a mask for unattended pain, so we encourage you to look deeper within and ask yourself, "Does that text or email even need a response?"

Can you just take a few deep breaths and let it go? Or write out your response and wait several hours, or perhaps a full day, and see how you feel about it later when you give yourself time to let the emotions settle. Here's a simple breathing exercise to prevent you from post-regret.

Write out your post/text/email in your notes and let it rest. Lie down on your back bringing the soles of your feel together and arms overhead. Breathe six-count inhales and six-count exhales for 10 minutes. At the end of your breathing exercise, ask yourself: How would this post/text/email serve me? Write out your answer. In 24 hours, read over everything including your post, text, or email, and repeat your breathing exercise for 10 minutes.

Let the answer come to you through meditative, conscious breathing. If you feel relaxed and at ease about never hitting the send button then you probably should let it go. Just remember that asking yourself the questions, "Does this serve me? Does this serve others? Does this serve my spirit?" is a great way to align in a peaceful, healing way. So much of what we do is reactive from pain or anger and is not productive. Be mindful and calm in your posts and digital communications.

Tanya Boulton
Tanya Boulton

Tanya Boulton taught math and yoga to inner city high school teens for five years on the rough streets of LBC (Long Beach, California). She saw the transformative nature of yoga and wanted to make yoga accessible to the people who needed it the most. After years of intense study with Ana Forrest in Santa Monica, she took her teaching to Hong Kong then New York City, and her yoga practice pushed her to find purpose with tanya-b, to give people a medium to express themselves and create an authentic brand that matches her vision. Anna Chung spent her first career on Wall Street. She was brought to the yoga mat during the early stages of her career to find balance, and she soon began to strip down her own internal stereotypes of yoga. After 12 years of working in finance, the yoga practice gave her the courage to leave Wall Street, follow her dreams of becoming an entrepreneur and yoga instructor, and in turn, encourage others to discover their true potential and create a culture of growth and leadership.