Physical adjustments, crowded heated rooms, hugs after class, COVID-19 challenges common practices in most yoga spaces. What will happen to yoga studios and communities as cities slowly start to ease shelter-in-place policies?
With the aid of technology, yoga studios are able to pivot from providing in-class instruction to live video classes. There’s nothing new about this format. Yoga teachers and fitness gurus were one of the first adopters of using video and image sharing networks such as YouTube and Instagram. The good old DVDs, yoga and workout apps such as Alomoves, and socially interactive exercise equipment such as Peloton, have allowed us to workout from the convenience of our homes while still being part of a community.
But yoga studios have always offered a bit more: heated rooms, group energy, the friendly front desk staff, listening to the teacher’s verbal cues, physical adjustments, and the mental shift one gets from going to a place dedicated to wellness. I’m one of those people that reach a level of concentration when I’m in the studio. And yes, I miss it. But I don’t see myself practicing in yoga studios anytime soon.
Wuhan, the origin of the Coronavirus, lifted lockdown after 76 days. Even with the restrictions eased, most residents opted to stay in. The mental hurdle to get back to the new normal takes time.
Aside from the collective post-quarantine psyche, furloughs and layoffs have already impacted yoga studios. Chains such as Yogaworks have permanently closed some studios and CorePower Yoga CEO Niki Leondakis, in a letter to the community, announced that the company has “ceased plans for new studio openings”.
Yoga studios will open their doors eventually and practitioners will start coming, but the way we communally practice will change. For Ra Yoga Co-Owner Jenny Vande Hei, she foresees yoga studios “reducing class capacity”, using “online sign-ups” to avoid waiting to check in, and forgoing services such as mat and towel rentals, showers, and lockers.
Based in Orange County, Ra Yoga studios are locally owned. For Jenny, the pandemic not only impacted yoga studios as a place to practice yoga, but as an integral part of local communities. For the time being, Ra Yoga offers online classes.
Other possible changes to the yoga studios are:
- Assign designated spaces for students by placing marks on the floors where mats must be placed
- Refrain from physical adjustments
- On a more drastic measure, we might have to rethink the concept of a yoga studio. It’s possible that yoga studios can still provide the space to practice, such as a single or 2-person room, where practitioners can either practice on their own or watch a class online.