Yoga practitioners are grabbing their mats and returning to classes following the latest provincial government easing of COVID-19 restrictions.
Members of YogaNation are happy to be able to relieve some of the stress that has been building up during the pandemic, said studio owner Candace Blum.
“The No. 1 thing they’ve been saying is how much they’ve missed yoga, missed their community and missed this space,” said Blum.
Members are also returning to The Breathing Room, which reopened for the first time on Monday since the government green-lighted low-intensity workouts last week.
The owners, Bonnee Gregg and Krista VandenBrink, say they wanted to ensure they were up on all the rules to have a safe reopening, which will require all yoga practitioners to be wearing masks. They are now hoping fitness activities in Alberta will open up even further this spring since revenues are limited by government-mandated spacing requirements to reduce the spread of COVID-19.
The Breathing Room can only have a dozen people – including the yoga instructor — in their studio.
Although there can only be 16 people per class at the YogaNation studio due to distancing requirements — rather than the 50 who could do yoga together before the pandemic — it’s still better than the three people who had signed up for virtual classes during the studio shut-down said Blum.
All returning students are asked to bring their own mats.
Local yoga studio owners have admitted the last few months have been a tough slog.
Some government rent supports helped keep their business afloat since the Nov. 12 closure that was lifted last week — but they say there are still utilities and other expenses to cover.
Yoga was among the hardest hit industries — so it would be nice if the government recognized this and provided more supports to get fitness businesses back on stable footing, said VandenBrink.
“We have been closed for nine of the last 12 months,” said Gregg. She and VandenBrink feel “loans are nice, but grants would be better.”
VandenBrink explained it will take a long time to repay the government loans. “Financially, socially, a lot of footing has been lost…”
Blum sees irony in the government shutting down fitness classes at a time when people’s stress levels, due to COVID-19, were high and they could have used the classes to improve mental health.
The shut-down also happened during the busiest time for fitness. “The tragic things is we depend on winter (classes) to pay for our spring and summer,” which are slower for yoga as people spend more time doing outdoor activities, said Blum.
She’s happy to be able to now put some of her previously laid-off yoga instructors back to work running six yoga classes a day.
But some smaller studios are still struggling.
Lindsay Johnson, owner of Ritual Yoga of Red Deer, is continuing to operate at a dialed-down intensity, in accordance with government guidelines.
Since Johnson can only give on-on-one classes, or at most, have two students from the same household or cohort in her small studio, she is also continuing to run virtual classes.
“I am working four times harder than I used to.”
Since her yoga studio is in her West Park garage, Johnson isn’t paying extra for rent. But yoga classes are what the single mother of two depends on for her livelihood, so she hopes the government will continue to ease up on restrictions.
As the weather warms, Johnson is considering moving some yoga classes to her backyard or a nearby green space, to allow for more students. But central Alberta’s weather is very unpredictable; “It could snow in April and even May,” she noted.