British Columbia

Vancouver yoga studio turns away customers who want to wear face masks, says patron

Bikram Yoga on Commercial Drive is refusing customers who want to wear a face mask during class, says a woman who was told to take hers off at the studio. 

Allison Cloth says she was asked to leave Bikram Yoga on Commercial Drive because she was wearing a face mask

Bikram Yoga on Commercial Drive states on their website that scared people should not go to their studio. (Cory Correia/CBC News)

UPDATE — July 8, 2020: Bikram Yoga-Commercial Drive confirmed Wednesday masks are only permitted in its lobby and change rooms and not in the practice room. A statement indicated the studio is basing its policy on a World Health Organization (WHO) Facebook post, which said "people should not wear masks when exercising as masks may reduce the ability to breathe comfortably."

ORIGINAL STORY:

A Vancouver yoga studio is turning away customers who want to wear a face mask during class, according to a woman who was asked to leave when she showed up in a mask. 

Bikram Yoga-Commercial Drive says those who want to wear masks should not practise at their location, according to an employee who answered the phone when CBC called. 

"Our vision is that we all individually take full accountability for how we feel and if we feel scared or sick please do not come to our studio," reads a statement on the yoga studio's website.

Allison Cloth says she showed up for a hot yoga class on Friday morning wearing a reusable cotton face mask, and was asked by one of the owners to leave the class.

"He said to me, 'The other owner and I have discussed this, we don't want masks here,'" Cloth said.

Cloth, who said she was wearing a mask as a precaution due to past health issues involving her lungs, said the owner told her that wearing a mask would make other patrons fearful.

"I said, 'I'm not afraid. I mean I'm afraid of you, but other than that I'm not afraid. I do have some medical issues in my history and [I'm] just being precautionary.'"

Cloth says she was offered a refund for classes she had pre-purchased and was advised to find another studio to practise yoga.

In an e-mail exchange with an instructor named Flo Escolan, Cloth was told: "I am sorry this transpired the way it did. Unfortunately, it seems that the vision of the studio doesn't fit well with what you feel safe with. If you feel that you are vulnerable because of your previous health history, then perhaps going to a more fitted studio is best for you."

Masks encouraged, permitted

B.C.'s Ministry of Health noted there is currently no order to wear masks, but officials said they "do hope that people and businesses are respectful of anyone's choice to wear a mask."

The ministry referenced Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry's previous instructions for yoga studios. 

"Small numbers and maintaining safe distancing in the studio are essential. Wearing a mask should be encouraged and absolutely permitted," Henry has said. 

WorkSafeBC says that while the use of masks to prevent the spread of COVID-19 is not a requirement for most workplaces, it is prudent when there are many people in a smaller indoor space. 

"[If] physical distancing cannot be maintained, personal protective equipment, such as masks, would then be a priority," WorkSafeBC said in an email to CBC News.

Bikram Yoga-Commercial Drive lists on its website more than a dozen changes at the studio to maintain physical distancing and promote sanitation, but does not mention anything about masks.

Cloth said she wanted to wear a mask for a deep breathing exercise in the class called pranayama.

"I wanted to wear a mask to protect myself indoors, a closed room, with multiple people in close proximity doing long, deep, heavy breathing," said Cloth. "I think that's what the doctors have told us to look out for."

The company's owners have not responded to multiple requests for an interview. 

As for Cloth, she says she will be attending Bikram yoga classes at another Vancouver studio that permits the use of face masks. 

About the Author

Cory Correia

Video Journalist

Send tips or comments to cory.correia@cbc.ca

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