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‘Spiritual practice’ — 12th Ave yoga studio says it will continue in-person classes despite COVID-19 restrictions — UPDATE

(Image: Live Love Flow)

A 12th Ave yoga studio says it is exempt from the state’s new COVID-19 restrictions and will continue in-person “spiritual and mindful” classes.

Live Love Flow informed customers about the plans Monday night one day after Gov. Jay Inslee announced a new lockdown on businesses and social gatherings to help slow a dangerous third wave of rapid spread of the virus. Live Love Flow members notified CHS about the update.

“In response to Gov. Inslee’s mandate, we are announcing that we are continuing to run yoga classes as scheduled In-Studio and Online,” the studio’s message said. “Yoga is considered a spiritual and mindful practice.”

The new restrictions seem to disagree.


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“All indoor fitness and training facilities are closed at this time,” the state’s updated regulations (PDF) for the industry say. Included are “weight and resistance training, cardio exercise equipment, martial arts, yoga, gymnastics, dance, climbing, and similar personal training, group training, or independent fitness services,” the update reads.

But the 12th at Cherry studio says it is not subject to the mandate and posted additional updates about the planned yoga classes to social media Tuesday. It will be canceling its indoor cycling classes, however, according to the update.

“We strongly believe that yoga is a spiritual practice and this practice is essential for our mental and overall health that is why we decided to stay on with yoga classes,” owner and company founder Indira Avdic tells CHS in an email statement. “We are not saying that we are a church.”

Avdic points out that Live Love Flow also doesn’t pay taxes on its yoga revenue because of its position as a spiritual practice. That loophole is real. The state does tax some yoga businesses differently based on whether the studio is an exercise facility or focused on instruction.

Washington’s COVID restrictions do not seem to make such a distinction. CHS has reached out to state and county health officials for clarification.

UPDATE: 5:33 PM: The state directed our inquiries to the governor’s office. Mike Faulk, deputy communications director for the office was definitive in his answer. “The short answer is: No, a business (yoga studio or any other) cannot just suddenly decide it falls under the religious services/places of worship guidance,” Gov. Inslee’s press secretary said via email but did not  provide additional information about enforcement.

Washington has a submission process to report business violations of the state’s COVID regulations but many of the reports end up being filed for reasons beyond the virus. Businesses found in violation are first contacted by regulating agencies or local law enforcement to provide information and “education.” Businesses that continue to skirt the rules can then face citations or fines (PDF).

UPDATE 11/18/2020 12:15 PM: Avdic tells CHS she is not canceling the classes even though Live Love Flow has pulled down its messages from Facebook and Instagram about the plan to continue instruction. “Classes are not canceled,” the business owner writes. “I personally got a lot of harassment and I am scared for my life I reported to police every that connected so I can only file a no contact order for now.”

Beyond taxes and restrictions, there are, of course, the basic issues of health and safety. Monday, Mayor Jenny Durkan said the city has identified “a handful of employer outbreaks” and that bars and restaurants have been the most common source in those business-related situations. Experts agree that prolonged, indoor exposure is a major factor in the continued spread of the virus — even when masked.

UPDATE 11/19/2020 10:00 AM: In an updated to customers Thursday morning, Live Love Flow announced it is throwing in the towel on in-person classes:

Seattle University, which has student housing in the same building, also has responded with a statement about the situation:

Seattle U is deeply committed to following public health guidelines to keep our students and neighborhood as safe as possible during the pandemic. We stress the importance of everyone doing their part, keeping in mind the importance of looking out for one another and the disproportionate impact the pandemic is having on marginalized communities. It is disappointing and concerning when a neighbor disregards the guidance. The university shared CHS’s article with the building owner and property manager, who assured us they were already in the process of responding to and addressing the situation.

UPDATE 11/18/2020 12:00 PM: Industry advocates are pointing out that restaurants and bars are being unfairly singled out. According to the state’s latest sector report (PDF), Washington’s leading employment categories by total case count are Health Care and Social Assistance, Agriculture, Forestry, Fishing and Hunting, Retail Trade, Manufacturing, and then Accommodation and Food Services.

In King County, the recent daily average has now exceed 500 positive cases. With somewhere around 2% of all cases ending in death, the county could see 10 or more COVID-19-related deaths a day in December.

Many other Capitol Hill studios have already transitioned their classes to online or outdoor. “Due to a new state mandate all Yoga classes starting tomorrow on Tuesday will be moved to zoom!,” Capitol Hill’s SweatBox Yoga wrote in an update to its members. “We are doing our best to make sure that we’re still able to share beautiful classes and help keep up your practice over the next four weeks.”

SweatBox owner Frani Assaf said she sympathizes with the challenges facing a fellow small business owner and also believes fully in yoga’s value as a spiritual practice but tells CHS she won’t risk any of her students becoming ill. “I’m trying to do the right thing and follow what the guidelines are,” Assaf said. She said she also hopes that restrictions could be less broad and recognize yoga’s important spiritual and meditative values but in the meantime isn’t willing to risk anyone’s health. The challenges SweatBox faces in maintaining its business through online instruction, however, are daunting. And there’s also the heat factor — it’s an even bigger challenge to replicate the SweatBox’s hot yoga environment at home.

UPDATE 5:45 PM: Anne Phyfe Palmer, former owner and now director of education and programming at 8 Limbs Yoga Centers, also said that business will comply with the prohibition on indoor fitness activities. “We’ve put our energy into series-based model, with classes in yogic philosophy, nutrition, history and art of yoga to complement our Zoom yoga and fitness classes,” Palmer tells CHS. “We agree that yoga is not just exercise, but it translates well to online, and we think that’s the safest option for our community right now.”

The 8 Limbs Capitol Hill location at Summit and Pike has remained closed since March 16th, Palmer said, and all its yoga and meditation classes have moved online. “As leaders in the community, our job is to model willingness to do what it takes to keep everyone as safe as possible,” Phyfe said. “We have considered offering in-studio classes for several months, but the numbers just keep going up.”

Live Love Flow, meanwhile, will also need to explain its plans to Seattle University. Its studio is located on the street level of The Douglas student housing building. A school representative told CHS he was looking into the situation.

UPDATE 5:30 PM: Though it is listed with the county as the taxpayer of record for the building, a Seattle U spokesperson said the school is not technically the owner of the Douglas but was checking on more information about ownership. The building is managed by BT Management, the spokesperson said..

In the statement from the school, the spokesperson said Live Love Flow is “physically separated from the residential part of the building” including “a separate entrance and separate venting/plumbing.”

“From a COVID health standpoint, we are continuously communicating with and urging all students, whether they live in university-managed housing or privately-owned housing, like the Douglas, to follow public health directives and guidelines,” the school said in its statement. “University expectations and policies are closely aligned with public health directives and guidelines.”

Avdic has not yet responded to follow-up inquiries from CHS.

UPDATE 11/20/2020 7:45 AM: Building developer Blanton Turner has issued a statement on the circumstances as LIve Love Flow has backed off its plans to continue classes:

We wish to update the Capitol Hill Blog that Live Love Flow yoga has agreed to close its doors during the next four weeks and any ensuing closed door operating mandates due to COVID-19. Blanton Turner relies on the guidance from the Centers for Disease Control, the State of Washington, and health organizations to implement our best practices during this pandemic and expect the same of our commercial tenants. This pandemic is both an economic and public health crisis, and we understand that these are extremely difficult times for small business owners.

“Thank you to all the small businesses who are making an incredible sacrifice for public health and welfare,” the statement concludes. “You are the soul of our city and certainly Capitol Hill!”


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Hillery
Hillery
6 days ago

What a crock

Shuffles
Shuffles
6 days ago

Grossly irresponsible, but no worse than all of the other gyms completely flaunting distancing rules the past weeks, like F45 on 11th and Pike. I have reported them daily and nothing was ever done it seems. The irresponsible studio owners brought this upon themselves.

pilates
pilates
6 days ago
Reply to  Shuffles

please don’t put us all in the same box. most of us have fully complied and more.

Shuffles
Shuffles
6 days ago
Reply to  pilates

Poorly worded, my mistake. I’m referring to the gyms that knowingly ignored the 300 sqft per person rule and let 15 people work out maskless in a 100 sqft gym. Many gyms have been very responsible. The few are ruining it for everyone.

big_boy_19
big_boy_19
5 days ago
Reply to  Shuffles

At best poorly worded again. 15 people working out in a 100 sqft gym. You do realize that 100 sqft is 10 feet by 10 feet. Do you seriously believe what you are saying? That 15 people could occupy a 10 x 10 room and “work out”? Check yourself again.

Pissed Off
Pissed Off
6 days ago

This is some white people nonsense to claim a spiritual exemption for hot yoga, and it’s irresponsible as hell. Their Facebook also shows that you can have your mask off in a group class. It’s honestly shameful.

p-patch
p-patch
6 days ago

Way to work a loophole. Live. Love. Flow. Cough. Die. Thanks for playing along!

Hillery
Hillery
6 days ago
Reply to  p-patch

Right? It’s like what’s next, come on down to our spiritual karaoke speakeasy church!

Pissed Off
Pissed Off
6 days ago

https://coronavirus.wa.gov/report-safe-start-violation

Don’t forget to report all these folks, all the time. Constantly. And blow up Yelp and Google Reviews and anything. If it saves one life, it is worth it.

stan
stan
6 days ago

“We strongly believe that yoga is a spiritual practice and this practice is essential for our mental and overall health…”

Spirituality can be practiced at home alone or via an online livestream.

I feel for the need to keep one’s business going but figure out some way other than in-person and indoors. This person’s willful disregard for public safety, given what we know about how the virus spreads, is irresponsible and an example of why we are staring at massive infection rate increases.

Do the right thing!

CityOfVagrants
CityOfVagrants
6 days ago
MarciaX
MarciaX
6 days ago

This is why there should be no exemptions for churches and the like. What’s stopping, say, bars from claiming that the serving and consumption of liquor is a “spiritual practice”?

Dustin
Dustin
6 days ago

get ready for the onslaught of covid scolds.

stan
stan
6 days ago
Reply to  Dustin

Don’t do stupid things that put the community’s health in jeopardy and there won’t be a need for a scolding. Pretty simple really.

JCW
JCW
6 days ago

I’m sure the Yoga Alliance (teacher certifying body) will just LOVE to hear that one of their members is disregarding state requirements and undoubtedly the association’s own Code of Conduct.

Seattliete A
Seattliete A
6 days ago

And yet… their LinkedIn states “LIVE LOVE FLOW is a boutique fusion fitness studio…” and their Facebook category is “Gym/Physical Fitness Center”.

The tax loophole is most infuriating thing about this.

pilates
pilates
6 days ago
Reply to  Seattliete A

years ago, yoga was considered retail and had to pay sales tax along with the rest of us. somewhere along the line, they were able to convince the legislature (or whoever), that they were exempt.

Let's keep everybody safe please
Let's keep everybody safe please
6 days ago

“Live Love Flow” is being recklessly/illegally cavalier with public safety AND it’s ridiculous that any entity, religious or otherwise, could allow up to 200 people to be indoors given what is happening with the pandemic. Any religious sect continuing to have indoor services right now is showing a disregard for the health and safety or their congregants and their community. I hope they are also named and shamed even if 200 person indoor services are technically allowed.

Moving On
Moving On
6 days ago

This is super gross. I’d like to have Christmas with my elderly parents as a “spiritual practice” but thanks to fools like these (and the people who attend) I probably won’t be able to.

Mimi
Mimi
5 days ago

Oooooh, I’m here for this public shaming. At this point (8 months in, over 240k Americans dead) I’m all for it. We’ll just call in SPIRITURAL KARMA.

More please.

RWK
RWK
5 days ago

This is an irresponsible and disgusting decision. Apparently, all they care about is making money, which is ironic given that they self-describe their business as “spiritual.”

James
James
5 days ago

Beyond Stupid

Emily
Emily
5 days ago

COVID has taught us that there’s not much difference between organized religion and death cults. Who knew that I, the atheist, would be morally superior when it comes to doing my part to protect the lives of my friends and neighbors?

caphiller
caphiller
5 days ago

I see the shamers’ points, but I disagree. Religious services are allowed, with safety precautions. Yoga can be practiced in person in a similarly distanced manner – why is church allowed but not yoga? Mental health has suffered immensely this year, and yoga classes (like church services) can help with that a lot.

Nick W
Nick W
5 days ago
Reply to  caphiller

Religious services are only really allowed because they have some arguable constitutional protection and Jesus freaks that would flip if they were banned. From a public health perspective church should absolutely not be allowed.

qwerty
qwerty
5 days ago
Reply to  caphiller

Religious services require masks the entire time, whereas yoga studios allow masks to come off when students are on their mat. Not all studios have upgraded HVAC or optimal air flow.

Emily
Emily
5 days ago

The more self-indulgent irresponsibility I see justified as “essential for mental health”, the more I think that the old-fashioned stiff-upper-lip proponents had a point.

caphiller
caphiller
5 days ago
Reply to  Emily

Maybe you could ask the relatives of suicide victims if mental health is “self-indulgent irresponsibility”, and can be treated with a stiff upper lip.

Steve
Steve
5 days ago
Reply to  caphiller

Suicide victims have serious mental health conditions that are not solved with a few yoga sessions. The existence of true mental health needs does not justify in-person indoor group fitness and stretching classes at a time when 1,500 Americans are dying every day from a pandemic, and rapidly rising.

Maia
5 days ago

I own a yoga studio in Columbia City, Lotus Yoga, that has been closed to in person classes since March. We have been offering online classes and paying rent for a studio space we can’t use this whole time. Our business has been drastically impacted but this is what we have needed to do to support the health of our greater community. It frustrates me greatly to see businesses like LLF flouting the public health mandates, it means that my business stays closed longer and it puts fellow citizens at risk. Would you consider writing a piece on the ways readers can support yoga and fitness businesses that are following the rules? We small studios and fitness businesses could really use some love right now.

Carom
Carom
4 days ago
Reply to  Maia

Denouncing the fake spirituality that yoga studios push would be a start.