This Content Was Last Updated on November 12, 2020 by Susan Albest
Not unsurprisingly the November lock-down has raised queries over whether Yoga classes can continue? Can yoga studios open? Yoga classes in Community Environments? What do we know?
First, the situation is rapidly evolving. The Legislation behind the lock-down has been passed yesterday (Wednesday 4 November), and doubtless more clarity will be coming out.
Caveats on this article:
- Its contemporaneous with publication of the Regulations, and interpretations may evolve
- Its England only
- Reference to classes and one on ones are, of course, for in person work. There is no question of online teaching being restricted.
See end of article for latest updates
- Restrict leaving home
- Restrict meeting other people indoors, or more than one non family member outdoors
- Restrict certain premises and services, causing them to have to close
All of the above have exceptions. Do note that the latter two sets of restrictions work independently – i.e. you need both a basis for meeting in a group, and a basis to allow premises to open.
Clause 5 of the Regulations restricts people leaving home unless within an exception as set out in Clause 6. Clause 6 includes exceptions to
- “to buy goods or obtain services from any business or service listed in Part 3 of the Schedule” – this would be a business allowed to remain open, so put simply if a business is allowed to open then you may leave home to attend it
- For work, education or training – there is no specific definition of education or training, so normal interpretation applies. Work would allow someone to leave home to work as a Yoga Teacher but, as we will see, they may not be able to have any students! Supplementary Government Guidance refers to ” formal education or training (as opposed to extracurricular classes)”
- “to attend a meeting of a support group which is permitted to meet” – we will look at support groups below, this is a significant exception
- For exercise outdoors but either alone, with household or with one person outside of the household
For the most part this would restrict people from travelling to a Yoga Class unless it qualifies as a support group, or to an outside 1 on 1 class.
Meeting in Groups
Moving on to meeting in groups. Generally group meetings are prohibited, groups being:
- “two or more people” (i.e. more than one person) indoors; or
- “more than two people” (i,e three or more) outdoors.
However there are some exceptions, notably for
- Work – but of course, whilst a Yoga Teacher is working in a class, their students are not
- Education and Training
- Support Groups
Regarding Education and Training, Clause 11(3)(b) provides an exception to the general prohibition “for the purposes of education or training” – no definition of Education or Training is provided, so presumably they take their normal definitions. Running a Teacher Training or CPD is likely to be acceptable; changing a general Yoga class to “training in yoga” probably not, at least on a purposeful interpretation. Supplementary Government Guidance around Education and Training says “formal education or training (as opposed to extracurricular classes)”
Regarding attending a “support group” this is allowed with up to 15 persons so long as it “takes place at premises other than a private dwelling” and “it is reasonably necessary for members of the group to be physically present at the gathering” – how you would define “reasonably necessary” is not given. Support groups include:
a group or one to one support which is organised by a business, a charitable, benevolent or philanthropic institution or a public body to provide mutual aid, therapy or any other form of support to its members or those who attend its meetings, for example those providing support—
(a) to victims of crime (including domestic abuse);
(b) to those with, or recovering from, addictions (including alcohol, narcotics or other
substance addictions) or addictive patterns of behaviour;
(c) to new parents;
(d) to those with, or caring for persons with, any long-term illness or terminal condition or
who are vulnerable;
(e) to those facing issues related to their sexuality or identity including those living as
lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender;
(f) to those who have suffered bereavement;
(g) to vulnerable young people.
Note a few points:
- The catch-all “to those with, or caring for persons with, any long-term illness or terminal condition” which seems to cover many acute and chronic conditions
- The use of “for example those providing support” – the list is not definitive
- The paragraph, as well as covering groups also allows one on one support
- These services cannot take place in a private home
It would seem this could reasonably be interpreted to allow
- Health focused Yoga classes and one to ones
- Pre and post natal
- Work with groups like domestic violence, refugees etc
The “all yoga is for health” argument could be advanced, but the context of the lock down is clear – gyms and fitness studios need to close, health services and support services continue, so it would seem to be appropriate to distinguish between general classes and health / support classes. This will be a question of degree as the dividing line on health related/therapeutic yoga is not fixed, and an ethical and honest approach is needed to ask where your proposed activity sits. Note “Yoga therapy” is not a restricted title, so many Yoga teachers may find some of their work qualifies and you don’t need to be a Yoga Therapist to be doing this type of work.
Premises Closures and Restricted Services
Not withstanding the situations where it is permitted to leave the home or meet in a group, we need to consider what premises and businesses can remain open.
The Regulations refer at various times to “Businesses” “Premises” and “Services” – the distinction does not seem material for the most part.
The Regulations say:
- The following are required to close “The following indoor facilities: dance studios, fitness studios, gyms, sports courts, swimming pools, bowling alleys, amusement arcades, playgrounds or soft play areas or other indoor leisure centres or facilities, including indoor games, recreation and entertainment venues.” (Schedule Part 2, Clause 22, enabled by Clause 16 of the Regulations).Also Clause 18(9) extends this to Community Centres and Halls with very limited exceptions, eg Training or Support (see the next section), and via Clause 18(8) to Places of Worship.
- The following may remain open “Dental services, opticians, audiology services, chiropody, chiropractors, osteopaths and other medical or health services, including services relating to mental health.” (Schedule Part 3, Clause 47)
- Clause 16 of the regulations adds:
- 16(1) “A person responsible for carrying on a restricted business, or providing a restricted service, must cease to carry on that business or provide that service.”
- 16(2) “Where a restricted business or restricted service forms, or is provided as, part of a larger business and that larger business is not itself a restricted business, the person responsible for carrying on the larger business complies with the requirement in paragraph (1) by closing down the restricted business or by ceasing to provide the restricted service.”
- 16(4) says “In this regulation “restricted business” and “restricted service” means a business or service which— (a) is of a kind specified in Part 2 of the Schedule, or (b) is carried on from, or provided at, premises of a kind specified in Part 2 of the Schedule”
In terms of Yoga classes, this cuts off many of the venues we may typically use, eg Gyms, Studios (both Yoga Studios and other more general studios), leisure facilities, Community venues and Church Halls. Interestingly School Halls seem not to be restricted, but this appears more of an oversight than intention – and in any event the restrictions on meeting people would take school halls out of the equation for general classes.
Could yoga classes be provided in premises which remain open, notably those under the second bullet above? Maybe. You still have to get over the restrictions around meeting however, and as covered above that is not a given – whilst you can attend any premises which are open, groups can only gather for work, education and training and support. So its a two part test, both premises being open and the group gathering being allowed.
Opening Restricted Premises for Support
Can restricted premises open just for groups that are allowed to meet? This is problematic due to the “larger business” aspect in Clause 16(2) – see Bullet 3b above. This can only be done if the “larger business” isn’t restricted – on the face of it Gyms and studios would be so restricted and hence not able to satisfy this condition.
However if the “larger business” is more complex and wide ranging, then possibly. Even if the premises are open, you still need to get a valid basis for meeting in a group. In practice, if the group is allowed to meet, eg a support group, its unlikely that anyone will prevent premises from hosting them as it would be hard to argue that the “larger business” didn’t include these other activities. This is a slightly muddled area, and needs a clear head.
A dedicated facility like a Yoga Therapy Clinic could certainly position itself under the second bullet, the permissive Part 3 of the Schedule, rather than the first bullet, the restrictive Part 2, but more general Yoga Studios probably not. The purposeful interpretation here is that leisure and fitness type facilities are to close, health ones are to remain open.
Again doubtless some will put forward that “all yoga is for health”, well, yes, fair point, but the context of the lock-down from a public policy perspective is clear – gyms and fitness need to close, health services and support services continue.
What about teaching in private homes? Well, although not expressly addressed in the premises restrictions, a support group cannot meet in a private dwelling, so that restricts both classes and one to ones – in practical terms then, classes in private homes, teacher or student, are barred.
Note a couple of concessions for children which allow “indoor gyms, fitness studios, indoor sports facilities and other indoor leisure centres” to host “supervised activities for children”, or to be used for school / college purposes (in this case a School or College subject to inspection regimes via Ofstead etc). This allows Yoga Studios to open for, say, Children’s Yoga.
To run a Yoga Class, including one on ones, generally you would need to:
- Meet the requirements for a support group
- Have access to premises which are allowed to open
It is possible, especially if you take the “all yoga is for health” approach, to argue for all classes and one on ones to continue in person. However its clear, ethically, that this isn’t the intention of the rules.
A reasonable interpretation of the rules is that general classes are to cease, but that provision remains in person for:
- Teacher training and CPD where this cannot be delivered remotely (eg group work and assessments)
- Yoga classes categorised as support, for physical health, mental health, pre/post natal, children and social needs, either one on one or groups of up to 15, however not in private homes
- In person provision needs to meet Covid Secure, Track and Trace, etc
- Yoga Studios and similar facilities which don’t already have a strong health & well-being focus may be ineligible to open. If there has been a history of health and well-being provision, eg CAT (Complementary and Alternative Therapies) then it is probably safe to open for this work.
This is not a “nudge and wink” to recategorise all Yoga as therapeutic and carry on regardless. Its clear the Government want to minimise social interaction whilst allowing essential support / health services to continue, and professionally we must honour the spirit of this.
Yoga Teachers and Therapists will need to consider their own ethical approach, and maybe any guidance from membership bodies and insurers. As a Yoga Teacher and Therapist I have ceased general classes, but continue Yoga Therapy in person.
5th November 2020
- Confirmed permitted 1 on 1 work cannot take place in a private home
- Emphasised the need to distinguish between general classes and those which are health related
EMD UK, the National Governing Body for Group Exercise, have put a release out 8pm today, saying:
“After lengthy dialogue with DCMS, we would like to outline the following for the national lockdown in England, effective from today Thursday 5th November (This information is correct at time of writing):
- No group exercise classes can take place indoors or outdoors. Instructors are encouraged to go online where possible and we will be sharing posts and blogs on how to create the best online class experience.
- Parent and toddler classes cannot take place in a group exercise setting. The guidance outlined is for classes in education / support settings – this does not extend to exercise.
- Group exercise classes for vulnerable adults and/or those with long-term health conditions cannot take place. The guidance outlined is for classes in education / support settings – this does not extend to exercise.
- Personal training 1:1 looks to be allowed in outdoor public places, but this has not been fully confirmed in the guidelines”
Clearly, if this is in consultation with DCMS then it carries a fair bit of weight – it concurs with our thoughts, viz only support classes are permitted, although the wording is slightly different, “The guidance outlined is for classes in education / support settings – this does not extend to exercise.”
By contrast APNT (Association of Physical and Natural Therapists) have a update on their facebook page suggesting that after consultation with Government CAM (Complementary and Alternative Therapies) can continue in most cases.
None of this is 100% Yoga specific, although there is a overlap. Some Yoga Teachers will be EMD members, others APNT members. The clear thrust, as I expected, is that what can continue is only the classes that are support rather than exercise – Yoga can fall into both, but people will need to be very careful on how they set their boundaries if they are classing classes / 1 on 1 as support / health, particularly if they are not Yoga Therapists or have a specialist niche.