Here at Yoga for Arthritis, we have recently been asked for our professional opinion about holding classes in-person now that restrictions are starting to loosen in some locations. Rather than answer these on a case-by-case basis, we are sharing our perspective on this issue for your consideration. Each of you, yoga professionals and yoga students alike, will have to make your own decisions given the information available and your own particular situation. Here are some thoughts to keep in mind as you do so. We have always been an evidence-informed organization based in yogic values, led by a public health researcher. This is reflected in the guidance below.
1. Yoga for Arthritis classes contain a high proportion of students in higher risk categories. These include: older age, chronic disease, auto-immune conditions, use of immune-suppressing medications, multiple comorbidities, systemic inflammation. What is appropriate for these classes may be different than what is appropriate for general yoga classes. The same may apply for therapeutic yoga, senior yoga, gentle yoga, etc. That being said, there are certainly students in high risk categories that attend general yoga classes, perhaps without disclosing those risks or even without being aware of them.
2. Some individuals with arthritic conditions (including lupus) are struggling to access their prescribed meditation due to medication hoarding by those who believe such medications might be effective against COVID-19. An inability to access medications for stable disease management creates even greater risk of disease flares and immune dysregulation.
3. Yoga practice with a mask may be problematic for those with respiratory conditions or anxiety. It may also be physically and/or emotionally challenging to wear a mask during more strenuous practices. If only the instructor is wearing a mask, it does not prevent transmission from one student to another.
4. Maintaining 6 feet of distance between individuals may be insufficient to prevent transmission when confined to an enclosed space for an extended period of time.
5. As restrictions are lifted, those with higher risk may still be uncomfortable attending studio classes. It may be beneficial for both studios and students if some classes remain accessible remotely in order to serve these populations.
6. As the weather changes, it may be possible to hold classes outdoors. Outdoor classes could allow for greater social distancing, improved air flow, less anxiety with extended mask use, and reduced risk of transmission between students.
7. In-studio classes should take extensive precautions to reduce risk of transmission such as: reducing/limiting class sizes, eliminating use of a waiting room/changing room, spacing out classes to avoid overlap of arrival/departure, removing communal mats/props or using CDC-approved cleaning products between every use, allowing digital pre-pay to remove use of a front desk, etc. Reducing the use of communal props may be an issue for classes that rely heavily on props, which may be another reason these classes stay remote longer.
8. While we are all eager to feel a greater sense of community than is possible under current circumstances, we don’t want to do so at the risk of our most vulnerable, nor do we want anyone to choose between their yoga practice and their respiratory health. In the unfortunate circumstance that transmission of COVID-19 does happen in a studio setting, we want to be certain that we did everything we could to be responsible and protect our communities from harm (ahimsa).
9. In all cases, please be diligent with understanding the current laws and guidelines for your own jurisdiction. While it is fine to be more cautious than these guidelines, it is not fine to be less so. Since these may differ across county lines and from one week to the next, be sure to stay appropriately informed and responsive.
10. There are many different opinions about this virus, it’s risks, policies, treatments, and more. People are nervous, emotional, defensive, and even angry. Let’s use our yoga to reflect and honor our common humanity and be the example of the light we’d like to see shine through these challenging times.
If you have questions about anything we have written here, if you would like to discuss your particular circumstances, or if there is something you think it important to share, please don’t hesitate to contact us privately. YFA COVID-19 STATEMENT PDF DOWNLOAD