“Technology has expanded at such a rate that nearly every aspect of our world has been affected — yet there has been no corresponding expansion of personal happiness. Instead, conversely we find that the wealthiest societies of the world have become depressed, anxious, sleep deprived, and overmedicated.” – Max Strom
It might be said that the practice of yoga is one of the oldest human technologies in existence. It is, in many ways, an applied science. And in today’s modern western world, the growth of yoga’s popularity has been exponential. According to the 2016 Yoga in America study commissioned by Yoga Journal and Yoga Alliance, there are 36 million yoga practitioners in America, up from 20.4 million in 2012. This rise is particularly interesting considering the expansive reach of our current moment in history – squarely in the midst of a digital age that touches upon (for better or worse) nearly every element of our daily lives.
Max Strom, a global yoga teacher, speaker, and author has written extensively about the internal search for meaning amidst the speedy isolation of the digital age. His recent book, There Is No App for Happiness, speaks directly to the simultaneous rise of technological advances and personal unhappiness. “When it comes to a meaningful life or happiness,” says Strom, “I believe that technology is close to irrelevant.”
What irony. For here I am writing a blog post, for a website, on the topic. Once completed, this piece will be beamed across the globe via social media in the hopes of attracting the attention of people seeking information from their screens. This pattern, this way of sharing insights and seeking connection, is going nowhere fast. It is how businesses communicate with consumers, how writers communicate with readers, how friends and colleagues communicate with one another. And it serves us, in immensely efficient, productive, educational, and productive ways.
And yet, what Strom wisely suggests (and I agree) is that technology is not enough. More than that, the ever-present reach of technology only makes the need for internal practices like yoga, pranayama, and meditation all the more real, all the more compelling, and all the more necessary.
Most thinking folks would easily agree that there is only so much time in a crowded marketplace our bodies, minds, and nervous systems can handle before needing to retreat back home and put our feet up. We simply can’t endure endless engagement, distraction, and consumption. We aren’t meant to. It doesn’t serve us. The very same is true of the digital realm. Although we may reap tangible and arguable benefits both personally and professionally from our hours spent ‘plugged in’, they also tax us. Those very hours cultivate a capacity to multitask that can backfire, an incessant hum in the brain that needs quieting, and a habituated isolation from face-to-face interaction that no amount of screen time can compensate for.
Arguably the most central of Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras is Sutra 1.2: yoga chitta vritti nirodha. Translation: yoga is the cessation of thought patterns in the mind. As Max Strom advocates, and as so many millions of us likely feel every day, this moment in our collective evolution – as thought patterns race in so many directions on so many platforms – that we need this wisdom most of all.
For more on this topic, we recommend this TED Talk from Max Strom.
Kate Tripp is a yoga teacher, writer, mother, and co-founder of Luma Yoga, an award-winning yoga studio for adults and children in Santa Cruz, CA. She shares her wisdom and experience on the Three Minute Egg blog with weekly, inspirational, yoga-related blog posts. Read Kate's full bio here.