This Content Was Last Updated on November 26, 2020 by Jessica Garbett
This post is now superseded – see Coronavirus Tier System and Yoga Businesses from December 2020 (England)
Yesterday – 12th October 2020 – so called “Local Alert Levels” were announced by UK Government.
There has been uncertainty about how these impact yoga classes, and very mixed messages from UK Yoga Bodies and speculation on Social Media. I would stress that as with everything Coronavirus and Coronavirus Guidance the position is not as clear as it could be – guidance isn’t explicit, and older guidance isn’t updated, making for very mixed messages.
My analysis is that in most cases Yoga Classes go on unrestricted. But lets break that down.
New Alert Levels
The Government have introduced three Alert Levels:
- Local COVID alert level: medium (aka Tier 1)
- Local COVID alert level: high (aka Tier 2)
- Local COVID alert level: very high (aka Tier 3)
In essence all areas in England are medium alert, unless they are in the high or very high zones. At present medium is lowest risk.
Different rules will operate in the devolved governments in Scotland, Wales and Northern Island.
You need to distinguish sources of guidance. I am looking at the Government guidance, but be aware that its open to membership organisations, landlords/venues and insurers to impose stricter requirements contractually – “if you want to be in our club, these are the rules”. To this end if you deal with an organisation that is interpreting the rules more restrictively you need to consider their stance as a condition of your membership / using their services.
Rule of Six
The rule of six has been with us since early September now – see our analysis on 9th September 2020 The Six People Rule and Yoga Classes
In summary its important to note that the Rule of Six is not an outright prohibition on being in the same room as five other people. Its a prohibition on socialising with them. So long as the groups are all separate and Socially Distanced, all is well. My experience is that even if a Yoga Class has the group dynamics whereby people are friendly and acquainted with one another, its not a social event, and thus falls outside of the rule of six so long as Social Distancing is in place.
Being clear on this, and that the restrictions are around socialising, makes understanding the current announcements more intuitive.
Local COVID alert level: medium
Under “Meeting Family and Friends” it says
“When seeing friends and family you do not live with (or who are not part of your support bubble), you must not meet in a group of more than 6, indoors or outdoors.” and
“Meeting in larger groups is against the law, aside from where there are specific exemptions”
Looking at exemptions, it states:
“Other activities, such as organised indoor sport, indoor exercise classes and other activity groups can continue with more than 6 people present provided that groups of more than 6 do not mix. Where it is likely that groups will mix, these activities must not go ahead.”
This is the default position that has existed since early September, whereby groups larger than six can meet but they shouldn’t socialise.
If, as some commentators have suggested, this means classes cannot proceed with more than six people, then it would be illogical to have the phrase “can continue with more than 6 people present provided” – the guidance would be an outright prohibition instead.
Reading in context it is clearly said classes of more than six can meet subject to no socialising – and of course subject to Social Distancing and the venue being Covid Secure
Is anything to be read into the use the word “mix”? Does a Socially Distanced Yoga Class constitute mixing? No, as Social Distancing is the opposite of mixing. The lack of precision in the wording isn’t helpful, but in the Governments defence it has been produced quickly.
Local COVID alert level: high
The guidance is at https://www.gov.uk/guidance/local-covid-alert-level-high
Here the restrictions on meeting family and friends are more strict, prohibiting indoor contact with family and friends:
“You must not meet socially with friends and family indoors in any setting unless you live with them or have formed a support bubble with them. This includes private homes, and any other indoor venues such as pubs and restaurants.”
Again it also says “Meeting in larger groups is against the law. There are certain exceptions.” and under the exceptions it says:
“Other activities, such as indoor exercise classes and other activity groups can only continue provided that households or support bubbles do not mix. Where it is likely that groups will mix, these activities must not go ahead.”
In essence this restriction is a tighter version of the rule of six. It is clear classes can continue – the guidance says so expressly. Except instead of prohibiting groups of six socialising its now a prohibition on socialising indoors with anyone outside of your household/bubble. This means, so long as you as you take the stance that attending a class and socialising are not synonymous, non household/bubble groups shouldn’t socialise together, but otherwise so long as Social Distancing and Covid Secure are in place the class can continue indoors.
The phrase “Where it is likely that groups will mix,” is interesting – possibly, and I stress possibly, it implies a need for the venue operator to assess how effective Social Distancing is in the venue and, maybe, the group dynamics of who arrives and leaves with each other. Social Distancing is the opposite of mixing, of course, as per my comments under medium alert above.
There is no getting away from this not being well written guidance, but in context it is clear that the position for a Yoga Class is that it can continue with no number restriction subject to Social Distancing.
Local COVID alert level: very high
Guidance is at: https://www.gov.uk/guidance/local-covid-alert-level-very-high
Here the very highest level of social restriction is brought in:
“You must not meet socially with friends and family indoors in any setting unless they are part of your household or support bubble. This includes private homes and indoors in hospitality venues, such as pubs. You must also not meet with people outside of your household or support bubble in a private garden or in most outdoor public venues.”
Do note, that is meeting socially not being in the same room, eg a workplace.
Within this guidance under “Sport and Physical Exercise” we read:
“Organised exercise classes are only permitted indoors if it is possible for people to avoid mixing in with people you do not live with or share a support bubble with.”
This seems to be a tighter version still of the Rule of Six – again the unhelpful use of “mixing” but if you see “mixing” is seen as the opposite of “Social Distancing” then it makes more sense. In essence Social Distancing is required from everyone other than household / bubble. In actual fact, although written differently (thanks Gov) its no different to the high alert level.
It is clear that classes are permitted – it expressly says they can continue “if it is possible” – and hence the contextual reading is that classes continue subject to being Covid Secure and Socially Distance.
Note – some very high areas have additional local restrictions, at present only Liverpool City where additional rules require “indoor gyms, fitness and dance studios and sports facilities” to close. Its going to be hard to argue for Yoga Classes to be running in that area, as Yoga Studios, etc, would clearly be caught in this definition, and by practical / ethical extension quite possibly classes in community venues.
As mentioned above, this analysis is E&OE.
In my view for medium, high and very high areas you can only reach a conclusion that classes should not run indoors, or should be restricted in numbers, if you conflate a Yoga Class with Socialising / a Social Activity. So long as Yoga is not seen as a Social Activity but is seen as a class, professionally run, Socially Distanced and Covid Secure then most classes can continue indoors and without a cap of six.
Reports of conversations with representatives of Sport England and UKActive back this analysis up.
Its possible, depending how you read the rules, there is a cap of 30, but I doubt many people have the space for teaching 30 socially distanced right now, or if they do, the demand – its a separate discussion.
I personally don’t see any credible interpretation that classes must be stopped or restricted to six indoors, Liverpool excepted.