Two Kelowna yoga studios loudly defy order to close

More gyms get vocal

Madison Erhardt

More gyms across the Okanagan have declared they are open for business despite the government's mandate to stay closed.

Both Bliss Yoga Lounge and Our Yoga Space in Kelowna tell Castanet they have remained open since the announcement of the mandate back on December 22.

Tara Greer, owner of Bliss Yoga Lounge, says they decided to get vocal after a number of other facilities decided to take a stand.

"When we were ordered to close... we decided to quietly stay open and just keep it in our community. We didn't want to get too vocal about it at the time, but now it has come to a point that other gym owners and yoga studios are starting to stand up and we just want to be of support to the rest of the community," she said.

Although Greer has been quiet up until the last few days, she received a warning letter from Interior Health.

"I did try to say that I would reconsider my decision if they can show me these stats and they haven't been able to."

In another email, Interior Health told Greer if she remains open she will be fined and her businesses license will be revoked.

Greer credits Iron Energy Fitness for paving the way.

"Taylor and I, the owner of Our Yoga Space, we have been in communication this whole time and both decided we were just going to keep it within our community. Then we both decided when we were going to get vocal and that was after we saw Iron Energy speak up."

Taylor Morrice says she remained open thinking that she was not breaking the Public Health Order.

"We were under the impression in the beginning that the PHO didn't contain the words yoga studio and in all other PHO's they have even gone as far as naming the certain types of yoga. So that was another reason why we have stayed open in the beginning."

Morrice says she's not concerned with the threat that she may be shut down in the future.

"There is obviously the risk of having that happen, but we know how important this community is to our clients and to our staff also. This is my livelihood."

The public health order remains in place until January 18 with a possibility of an extension.

"At this point, I am not putting any trust in our government to do the right thing. I am not saying that they are doing things maliciously, but in the past, these closures have always come with an extension, even if there is still no data to back it," Morrice added.

On Monday, Kelowna West MLA Ben Stewart sent a letter to the Minister of Health asking that gyms across the province have permission to open their doors.

Stewart says the health order showed a lack of respect to businesses.

"It was very arbitrary and it wasn't respectful for the businesses that were impacted. When I started looking at this I realized this was not fair to the people that were using gyms or the gym owners. There was no effort or dialogue that took place with them to find a solution that would have allowed them to perhaps stay open."

In Stewart's letter he claims there is a lack of data surrounding the spread of COVID-19 in gyms and fitness facilities.

"We discussed that with Dr. Henry in a private call on Monday, and it is really the old information or the historical information that they are relying on."

"Their job is to make certain public health is protected, but how many public health orders have we had in the last two years? We have had our own in the Okanagan and I think that was all in an effort to try to get us to fully vaccinate. We are at 90 per cent today. I think that the situation is that people deserve to have more respectful dialogue and that is what didn't happen and that is why I am pushing back," Stewart added.

A handful of gyms in Kamloops have also refused to close under the order.

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