I had known for a while that I had a Facebook problem. I spent more time than I’d like to admit scrolling through my Facebook feed, but too often, this social media rendezvous left me feeling dull, lonely, or isolated. So I decided to try a little experiment.
For a week, every time I felt that impulse to check Facebook on my phone, I did some yoga instead.
And by making myself do yoga, I learned a lot about how my mind operates. Here’s how it went:
I decided to start on a Sunday afternoon to sort of ease into this experiment. Instead of my usual nightly Facebook space-out, I forced myself to shut off my computer and go through some yoga poses in my living room. But I stopped after about 10 minutes because I couldn’t remember anything beyond some basic stretches.
I do communications work for public schools, so I made a concession that I could still use Facebook for work-related purposes — which I admit is sort of a big exception. But when I found myself picking up my phone to check Facebook after a meeting, I immediately put it down, Googled “seated yoga poses” instead, and did a few quick stretches. It felt good…the first few times. Then it just felt a little silly — especially when my officemates arrived.
I found myself ducking into the restroom at odd intervals to sneak in stretches that I didn’t want to do in public (hello, Downward Dog). This day felt like it was never going to end, and yoga started to feel like punishment. I’m tired and I just want to veg out and look at my phone.
My day started with an assembly at school, which is usually primetime for me to sneak in some Facebook scrolling. Instead, I had to figure out how to do yoga while seated at a cafeteria table. Does dropping my pencil and crawling under the table after it count as Cat Cow Pose?
Later that afternoon, I found myself reaching for Facebook while walking down the hall. How do you do yoga while you’re walking? I stopped in an out-of-the-way corner for what I am telling myself was a discreet Mountain Pose and tried to pretend I was studying a poster.
Overall, the day felt really long without the Facebook breaks that I realized provide me with a welcome chance to space out and rest my brain for a minute. For me, yoga does the opposite — it forces me, for better or worse, to confront whatever’s on my mind. And sometimes that’s exactly what I don’t want.
I worked at a school that was new to me, and spent the whole time lost and running around the building. I barely had time to scarf down lunch, let alone zone out on social media. But when I ducked into the restroom between meetings, Facebook was the first thing on my mind. Instead I forced myself to do a seated twist on the bathroom floor (which is about as pleasant and sanitary as it sounds), because I was sick of all the standing poses I had been doing all week.
Full disclosure, before this experiment, I used to check Facebook first thing every morning. As in, before I even put on my glasses, let alone got out of bed. Hauling my ass out from under the covers to do a Sun Salute is way more painful — but, unsurprisingly, does leave me feeling a lot more alert and awake. And thanks to another busy day at work, I only had to bust out a few awkward yoga moves in between finishing up a few reports. Success!
By the time my work week was over, I developed sort of a Pavlovian response to Facebook. Just looking at the icon for the app made me feel like I needed to stretch. It’s weird, but it made me feel like the whole experiment had, kind of, worked. That is, until I stopped at the grocery store on my way home and found myself reaching for my phone while waiting in the checkout line. If you thought doing yoga in an office chair was hard, try doing the Chair Pose in the checkout line.
I was at first excited, then kind of disgusted, to think about how soon I would be able to go back to just lounging in bed and looking at Facebook all morning. But when the time came, I noticed how my desire for Facebook dried up when I was on my feet and active.
After ending my day with some gentle stretches in my darkened living room, I thought back on this week. Replacing Facebook with yoga isn’t a long-term solution for me, but doing it for a week has helped me get to know myself a little bit better.
Edward Vilga wrote of yoga that, “With nothing left to do, you’re finally forced to come face to face with yourself.”
I have been facing myself all week, instead of hiding behind Facebook. Although it has been uncomfortable at times, it has also been invigorating. I feel less forgetful, more focused, and substantially more productive.
And maybe just a little bit more flexible.