In an effort to collect and share helpful info about what’s happening in the yoga scene right now regarding Covid-19, yoga studios re-opening, mask-wearing, distancing, etc, I put out an informal survey on this topic in my Instagram stories on June 13, 2020.
I received an abundance of feedback from people based on their experiences in their local regions, and I’ve decided to offer a report here summarizing the highlights and helpful tips that were shared.
I haven’t seen one centralized resource where yogis from a variety of areas are communicating about their local re-opening process in an effort to share helpful information with the larger yoga community. (If this exists somewhere, please feel free to post about it in the comments below!)
Yoga Alliance does have recommendations for re-opening that it has published (last updated a month and a half ago on April 30th at the time of this writing), but I don’t see anywhere that they are reporting on what things are actually looking like in real-time on the ground right now.
With that said, here’s a summary of what I learned through this informal survey of my social media audience, which consists of yoga teachers, studio owners, and students all over the U.S. (and the world!)
REPORT ON THE INFORMAL SURVEY ON YOGA STUDIOS RE-OPENING:
I started off the survey with two questions: “In your area, have yoga studios re-opened yet?” and “If so, are teachers & students wearing masks in indoor studio classes?” After these questions, I invited people to share any tips/advice/observations they had on this topic with me. Here were the results of the first two questions:
So of the people who responded to my survey, studios have re-opened in 38% of their areas. And of those that have re-opened, masks are not being worn at the vast majority of them (82%).
People also reported that their studios are:
limiting class size (a maximum capacity of between 10-15 seems to be the most common size cap people mentioned)
spacing mats far apart (6 feet apart in the U.S., 2 meters apart in European countries, and 1.5 meters apart in Australia (where Covid-19 prevalence is low))
requiring students to bring their own yoga mats to class
not using any communal yoga props (blankets, blocks, straps, etc.)
not allowing any hands-on adjustments during class (in fact, teachers generally stay on their mat throughout the entire class and teach from that spot)
requiring pre-registration for classes – no drop-ins
Some people mentioned that their studios are cleaning the space before and after all classes, but I didn’t hear that from everyone.
No one mentioned any studios checking students’ temperatures upon arrival (although this is a recommended step to take by Yoga Alliance).
Several people directed me to a very interesting report conducted in South Korea that looked specifically at Covid-19 transmission in group fitness classes. This report suggested that while transmission risk may be high in group fitness classes where people are exerting a significant amount of effort and breathing heavily (i.e. higher-intensity classes like dance, aerobics, etc.), transmission risk might be lower in yoga/Pilates classes, where people exert less effort and breathing is more tempered. (It’s important to note that this report only looked at transmission rates between one yoga/Pilates instructor and her students, though.)
Here’s a quote from this report:
“Of note, instructor C taught Pilates and yoga for classes of 7–8 students in the same facility at the same time as instructor B (Figure; Appendix Table 2), but none of her students tested positive for the virus. We hypothesize that the lower intensity of Pilates and yoga did not cause the same transmission effects as those of the more intense fitness dance classes.”
What about masks in yoga?
From what I’ve gathered, in most areas where yoga studio re-opening has happened, the local regulations are not requiring that students/clients in group yoga or fitness classes wear masks – as long as the students are socially distanced.
Many people told me that their studios do require mask usage upon entering and exiting the studio and in the lobby, etc. But once a student is on their yoga mat, they are allowed to remove their mask.
Here is some helpful information I received from a yogi/personal trainer who lives in California:
“I don’t know what the guidelines are for other states, but in CA, the guidelines are pretty specific—teachers/trainers/employees at gyms and studios are required to wear masks. Clients/students/gym goers do not, though it is recommended. (I wear a mask while training, but let my clients know whether they wear a mask or not is optional. Most choose not to because they find it hot/difficult to regulate their breathing.)”
I’m sure that specific guidelines on mask usage will vary between different regions, but for the most part it seems like mask-wearing is not required in yoga as long as social distancing protocols are in place. It does seem that in California, though, yoga teachers (not students) are required to wear masks. I’m not sure if this is the case in other regions as well. (Feel free to share in the comments below if you have info on this!)
Additionally, according to this informal poll, masks are being worn in 18% of studios that are open (so it sounds like some studios are requiring everyone to wear masks even if their local regulations don’t require it.) And even in areas where mask usage is not required, some people might choose to wear a mask anyway – both to protect themselves and to potentially protect others if they happen to be an unknowing asymptomatic carrier of the virus.
With that said, here are some helpful tips that people offered for mask-wearing in yoga!
Tips for mask-wearing in yoga from members of my social media audience:
-“As someone who runs in a mask:
Cotton gets very soggy with heavy breathing/sweating. Have a mask to change into for after class. And/or have a mask that’s made from quick dry material.
Fit is important. Deep breaths with a loose fit with flimsy material means the fabric will likely be sucked in/out of your mouth/nose with deep breaths. Either a tight fit for minimal movement or a stiff tented fit so it can’t conform to your mouth is helpful.
It will be uncomfortable and feel suffocating at first. Embrace it like your first Bikram/hot yoga classes. Slow your breath, stay calm. You are getting enough air.”
-“Ensure it’s suitably sized. Have a spare available in case it becomes damp.”
-“Take breaks as you need. The disposable paper masks are the easiest to breathe in!”
-“Remember that even though it *feels* harder to breathe, a mask doesn’t change your oxygen intake.”
-“Make sure your breath is fresh!”
-“Have extra masks – regardless if it is reusable or single use, switch it out if you sweat in it.”
-“The surgical masks are easier to breathe. Still maintain the recommended distance.”
Other notes & observations on this topic:
Here are a few examples people shared with me regarding some yoga studio practices they’ve witnessed during re-opening that seemed concerning to them:
From a yoga teacher in Texas:
“I’m in Texas where everyone is pretending it’s all over. My studio is open and pulling streaming in an attempt to force us back…. they’re scared of closing – which I get…..
Every class I took in about the week before re-opening was themed on ‘not being ruled by fear.’
I’ve been very disappointed by the studio- there has been a lot of good will shown by members – but very little consideration shown for the fact that these same people are worried for their own livelihood /future…..
None of it feels very ‘yogic’!
They’ve also been attempting to bully some of the teachers back with the threat of job loss- but in reality these people are doing a great job streaming from home to members.”
From a yoga teacher in upstate New York:
“I’m in upstate NY. I’m pretty sure the local yoga studio is skirting the rules and considering themselves a spa which allows them to open, but as far as I read in the NYS guidelines, group fitness classes & even private sessions are still a no-go.
Really disappointed, but not surprised by the local studio. Apparently they marked spots 6 feet apart & make people wear masks when they’re not on their mats, but in a small enclosed space with some definite deep breathing, the whole concept scares me.”
From a yogi in Florida:
A yogi in Florida forwarded me a photo posted on Instagram on 6/12/20 by a local yoga studio chain featuring an image of a yoga class containing at least 60-70 students with yoga mats much closer than six feet apart and all yogis unmasked. The caption reads: “Our studios are OPEN, our team and students are safe, happy and healthy”.
It could honestly be the case that this photo was taken during a pre-pandemic, pre-lockdown yoga class at the studio and they simply used that photo to advertise that they were now open again with “healthy students”. Although this is not what the caption seems to imply, and several students posted comments on the photo expressing that they were hesitant to attend such a crowded class. So far there have been no responses to those comments posted by the studio.
I wrote to the studio directly and asked if the photo was taken since re-opening or if it was from before the pandemic, but I haven’t received a reply as of this writing.
And here are a few more general observations from yogis:
“The classes I tend to go to are more restorative or Yin. Haven’t ventured into the Power because of the sweat and breathing! We have marks on the floor and class size is very limited. Instructors do not come off their mat, no props and no mat rental.”
“How surprising about the masks! I know a few studios in Eugene, OR that are requiring masks, but not my home studio. It’s a hot studio though, so it likely wouldn’t be received well.”
“In Berlin you wear a mask as you enter and take it off once on your mat. Mat spaces are marked on the floor with 1.5m distance in each direction. Teacher stays at the front. No hands on, no walking around. No use of blankets, and students should bring own mat, if they have one.”
“I wouldn’t do yoga in a hot yoga studio due to the stress I feel to breathe. As of now the club I manage is not doing any live in-person classes, the room doesn’t have great ventilation and it houses not only yoga but also Zumba, body pump etc. So we’re sticking with Zoom classes at least through the summer.”
“Wow that’s intense so many are not wearing masks! The only thing is a teacher will get a lot of exposure to many people over the course of a week, so it adds up which is what worries me. Ethically is a yoga class worth a health risk? It is a big space, they will limit numbers, may have to take temperatures, and not allow people to hang out in the lobby.”