Students attending Bodhi Tree Yoga's first in-person yoga classes since fall on Monday will need to pack an additional item along with their yoga mat and water bottle — proof of COVID-19 vaccination.
Studio co-owner Colin Hall decided with his wife Sarah Garden to make it mandatory for anyone attending class in person to provide proof that they are fully vaccinated, which means two weeks have passed since they received their second vaccination.
"If you don't know people's vaccine status, you really can't fully relax. You just don't know for certain how safe it is," Hall said.
The move has predictably drawn both support and derision from Bodhi Tree's social media following.
"They say, where do you draw the line ... are you going to ask for proof of a flu vaccine next year? What about measles, mumps, rubella?" Hall said.
"Everyone draws the line somewhere."
WATCH| Bodhi Tree Yoga wants anyone attending in-person classes to show proof they are fully vaccinated:
The Saskatchewan government has decided against creating so-called vaccine passports that would allow fully vaccinated citizens to participate in large events like football games without restrictions. The decision leaves many businesses and organizations developing their own plans as the province moves into Step 3 of its reopening plan July 11, which sees most remaining COVID-19 restrictions removed.
Representatives from the province said that requiring proof of vaccination may violate The Health Information Protection Act.
Hall said he consulted with several doctors on the best way to keep both staff and students safe before making the decision to make proof of vaccination mandatory for yoga classes.
"I knew there was going to be people upset about it. That wasn't surprising when people were mad," he said. "But my intuition tells me that we will not be alone and that over the coming weeks and months, there will be many, many other people following."
My intuition tells me that we will not be alone. - Colin Hall
Bodhi Tree has been offering yoga classes primarily online since March of 2020, with the exception of September when they offered a hybrid of online and in person. Hall said staff are excited to return to in-person classes, but also nervous about enforcing the vaccine rules.
"So now we're needing to think about do we need to hire security? Who has a yoga class with a bouncer?"
Businesses need guidelines
Arthur Schafer, a bioethicist at the University of Manitoba, said Ottawa should implement a vaccine passport that provides consistent rules across the country.
"At the very least, there should be guidelines. Now, this is a yoga studio we're talking about, but the same issues are going to be faced by cinemas, by hairdressers, by people who are sponsoring sporting contests or concerts of various kinds."
Schafer said business will also need to ensure they offer options for unvaccinated people, or they could face legal challenges.
"I think we have to promote the most rapid opening of society that's consistent with protecting public health in a secure way. And frankly, requiring that people be fully vaccinated is maybe the best means of getting us open safely and return to normal life or as near normal life as possible."
Hall said his studio will continue to offer online yoga classes for people that are unvaccinated or choose not to attend in-person.
While he's open to discussion about his decision, he said right now it's the best way to protect everyone.
"I'm really excited to get back to teaching in person in an environment that feels insulated, that feels protected."