New Studies Bolster Safety of Yoga Classes & Masks

Recently, the CDC published two studies tracing COVID-19 outbreaks that occurred in indoor fitness classes in Honolulu and Chicago.  There was actually some good news for yogis if you dig beyond some of the scary sounding headlines.

Zero Cases in Yoga Classes

One of the classes studied was a 1-hour yoga class in Hawaii.  The teacher taught the class to 27 maskless students just 2 days before his symptoms first appeared.  This would have been during the time when he was becoming infectious.  Yet two weeks later, the students reported zero symptoms and zero positive test results:

On the morning of June 27, >2 days (60 hours) before symptom onset, instructor A taught a 1-hour yoga class for 27 participants at facility X. Instructor A wore a mask, but no participants wore masks. No participants reported symptoms during the next 14 days. Only one (4%) participant received SARS-CoV-2 RT-PCR testing, with a negative result, on July 3. Thus, the attack rate for facility X on June 27 was 0% (zero of 27).

The positive cases were all connected to much more intense physical activities like kickboxing, spinning and personal training.  The findings from the studies are consistent with another study last year out of South Korea.  Researchers studying a similar outbreak there marveled that yoga classes did not cause any cases of transmission.  They wrote:

We hypothesize that the lower intensity of Pilates and yoga did not cause the same transmission effects as those of the more intense fitness dance classes.

Importance of Wearing Masks

The outbreaks in Honolulu and Chicago also took place inside facilities where masks were not required.  People either were told they could remove their masks once the class started, or they didn’t have to bring one at all.  Officials in those localities enacted mask mandates for gyms after the outbreaks had taken place.

We now know the virus spreads primarily through aerosols and droplets expelled through the nose and mouth.  Activities that cause you to breathe harder produces more of these infectious particles.  That’s why it’s important to wear a mask while exercising.  As the CDC director said last year, masks “are one of the most powerful weapons we have to slow and stop the spread of the virus.”

New York State Safety Rules

When New York State issued its safety guidelines for gyms and fitness centers in August, masks were required at all times.  Staff, instructors and clients alike must wear one whenever they are inside the facility.  Pre-arrival health checks are also mandatory, along with strict social distancing and cleaning protocols, and stricter ventilation and air filtration requirements.  

This multi-layered approach to gym safety has proven to be very effective.  Just 0.06% of new cases in New York are traceable to fitness centers — a lower rate of transmission than restaurants, salons, and schools.  

These are the rules yoga studios outside New York City are already following.  If the Mayor were to allow yoga studios in New York City to reopen, we would have to follow those rules too.

Yoga is safe.  It is especially important now, when we are all coping with increased levels of stress and anxiety.

Please let the Mayor know that it’s time to let yoga studios in New York City reopen.