It's a common conundrum for the modern yogi: How do I use technology mindfully? I want to stay connected to those I care about and I want to document the small, sweet moments in life, but I don't want to spring to action every time my phone dings. And I definitely don't want to be checking my messages while there are real, live humans to interact with. That's a big issue that I'm still working out myself.
One practice I've cultivated is to simply turn off my phone after 8pm. This helps me to simmer down for the evening and turn inward in preparation for restful sleep.
However, I have found that not all smartphone usage is bad news. One strategy I've used to be more mindful with technology is to limit the aspects that stress me out (frantic emails) and increase my positive activities online.
The following three apps have really improved my life online and offline, so I want to share them with you, too.
Gratitude365: It's like Instagram but it's a gratitude journal. Each day you take a photo of something you are grateful for and list as many items as you'd like. There is a simple photo editor to make it pretty, and you don't have to save the photos to your phone, freeing up space. I keep this on my home screen so that when I'm fiddling around with my phone I remember to take a moment for gratitude. Gratitude makes us happier. Period.
Insight Timer: I enjoy using this timer sometimes for my meditation practice. It has a pleasant bell to begin and end the session. You can also connect with others and see who you've meditated with that day. After I use the app, I like sending someone (a stranger, usually) a message thanking them for meditating with me. It provides me with a sense of connection, even in a solitary practice. The timer also rewards you with stars for consecutive days of meditation and keeps track of your overall time. The pitta part of me is motivated by this tracking and it helps me be consistent in my practice.
Pranayama: This is a very simple app that provides me with an alternative to counting while working on pranayama. I don't like counting because I find it stressful. That's the short of it. I also feel that increases the activity in my mind. As an alternative, this app plays a deep, soothing sound for both inhale and exhale. You can set the time you want (including holding time, if appropriate) and then go with the flow. It doesn't instruct specific technique, however. I personally think this should be learned in person anyway, so please come to class to learn more. Then you can use this app wherever you are to increase energy, relax, and refresh.
There you have it! Three ways to use your phone for mindfulness. Enjoy and share other apps you've found useful in the comments.