Dear yoga friends,

This post is long, but I hope you will read it all the way through.   
On May 18th, Governor Ron DeSantis announced that gyms and fitness centers in Florida could reopen, after being shut down due to being non-essential businesses.
I chose not to reopen Garden of the Heart Yoga Center just yet.
This was not an easy decision to make, but it was an important one. There are many factors to weigh concerning when to reopen. Of course, we miss each other, we miss practicing yoga together, we miss hugging and catching up with each other before and after class, and we miss the “good vibes” of being in the yoga center. And of course, we all want to Get Back To Normal. 
Unfortunately, reopening now would be nothing like Normal.   
To gather in the studio, we would have to keep mats a minimum of 6 feet apart. Even in our large space, we can only fit 10-12 student mats on the floor. We would have to implement strict safety protocols, such as spacing for coming in and out of the studio and using the rest rooms, not using props, and having no physical contact. It does not feel practical to wear masks for practicing or teaching yoga. It does not feel comfortable to do a health screening for each person upon entry (and it is known that many people with covid-19 have no symptoms but can still spread the virus.)   
The coronavirus has a higher infection rate in conditions where people are speaking loudly (i.e. yoga teachers who are projecting their voice to the back of the room), and when doing deep breathing. It is more likely to be transmitted from person to person when people are in contact indoors for longer than 15 minutes- so gathering in a yoga studio for an hour or more at a time is a lot riskier than passing by someone in the grocery store, or being outside with others.   
My decision to stay closed for now is not based in fear, but it is based in love. Love and compassion for you, for the teachers, and for all of our friends, family members and greater community. My decision is also based on the recommendations of the Federal Government, the CDC and of Yoga Alliance for individuals and businesses during Phase 1 of “Opening Up America Again”.    
I made a list of pros and cons of reopening the studio now, and the biggest con was the idea of putting a single one of us at risk of contracting a dangerous and potentially deadly disease. In my mind and heart, this one con outweighed any pro that I could come up with for reopening at this time.   
The biggest pro to remaining closed (for now) is that we can still practice and learn together online. Several of the teachers and I have been leading classes through Zoom, and it has been a really good experience, overall. We can see and hear each other, you can ask questions, and we can offer you individual modifications and verbal adjustments. We say hello and check in with each other at the beginning and end of class, and there is still a feeling of community as we see our friends in our favorite classes week after week. Yes, there are sometimes technical challenges with the audio and video, but for the most part, it is running smoothly. Our classes are secure with an embedded password and as of May 30 Zoom Meetings will be fully encrypted, so there is virtually no cyber security to worry about. (No one can access your computer while you are in a zoom class. The meeting host can only mute or unmute your audio in the meeting- we have no access to your camera- and you are welcome to have your camera on or off.)    
I highly encourage you to continue to attend our virtual livestream classes, or give them a try if you haven’t yet. As I know many people are going back to work, I will be adding additional evening classes to the livestream schedule, and I’m also looking at ways to create “on demand” viewing of pre-recorded classes. By attending a virtual class, you are supporting the studio so that we will have the financial ability to reopen in the future. You are also supporting your teacher financially when you attend their live stream class. I know that many have been hit hard economically, so if you need a scholarship to help you attend classes online, please let me know. If you already have a class package, you can use those for our virtual classes. (If your package had expired, please contact me and I will reactivate it for you.)  The price for a drop in is $20, but we now have some amazing Monthly Membership options, including an Unlimited Livestream Membership!

At this point, I don’t know when the studio will reopen its doors- that decision will be made taking many factors into account, including recommendations from scientists and medical professionals, updates from Yoga Alliance, and whether there is a local or national resurgence of covid-19 cases during this early phase of reopening. If all is going well in the next few weeks, I will reconsider our options.   
I love you all so much. I look forward to the time when we can be together in person. For now, we stay connected through the heart, at a distance. Feel free to reach out if you want to talk or need support. Being in community is so much more than occupying the same room together, and I am honored to be in community with you.   
Big Virtual Hugs, 

Cheryl Chaffee, E-RYT-500®, YACEP®

Director, Garden of the Heart Yoga Center

Licensed Ashaya Yoga®Teacher Trainer