The Toronto yoga scene turned up the heat in June as 50 geodesic domes appeared downtown at the Stanley Barracks outside of Hotel X for five weeks (June 21–July 31) of hot—socially distanced—yoga.
As coronavirus cases in Toronto climb toward 15,000, the yoga domes, hosted by Lmnts Outdoor Studio and six of the city’s hottest local yoga and fitness studios (10XTO, Solis Movement, BeHot Yoga, and more), offer several safe and sweaty classes daily. The domes provide fitness and mindfulness enthusiasts with an opportunity to gather for group fitness during pandemic-related restrictions and continued city-wide closures of studios and other non-essential businesses. As yoga practitioners—and even teachers—experience “Zoom fatigue,” Toronto’s yoga dome pop-up offers an a way to maintain mental and physical health during unsteady times.
“Now more than ever, Torontonians are looking for things to do and ways to get outside again, while maintaining physical distancing,” said Steve Georgiev, an organizer for the event. “The nature of their [the domes’] construction offers a great opportunity to have a collective experience.”
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Each clear, frameless dome measures 7-by-12 feet and provides 110 square feet of personal space. For $33 a pop, practitioners enjoy 360-degree views as they breathe, move, and sweat in 100-degree Fahrenheit temps for a no-contact hot yoga experience.(And yes, the heat is self-adjustable, and no, you don’t have to stay inside if you’re overheating; this isn’t Bikram Yoga.)Before and after each class, the domes are professionally cleaned and sanitized. Prior to entering the dome zone, each patron has their temperature checked and will be asked to vacate the premises if they are potentially symptomatic.
The yoga domes aren’t the first socially distanced fitness experience to appear in recent months. New York’s social distance circles at Domino Park provide patrons with free “human parking spots” for stretching, sunbathing, and socializing.
Domes for Yoga vs. Shelter for the Homeless
But the domes have already managed to stir up some controversy. BlogTO reports mixed feelings among locals. With an average of 9,000 people without shelter each night, some folks have called out Lmnts on social media for “catering to Karens” when it could be repurposing those resources for the city’s homeless population, particularly during the pandemic.
But Lmnts states that the pop-up not only offers the community a responsible fitness experience, it also supports local businesses by providing jobs to Toronto-based instructors. Given that the domes offer little ventilation other than a controllable fan to adjust the heat, Georgiev told Yoga Journal that the domes are not habitable and he would not recommend that the homeless reside in them. “We are doing our part amidst a pandemic and hope that the taxes we pay will be put toward government funding that assists in helping homelessness,” Georgiev said.
This isn’t the first instance of public outcry to civic leaders to help the homeless in recent months. As large hotels sit vacant in New York and Los Angeles, people are wondering why it’s taking so long for the hospitality industry to repurpose those empty beds, at least in L.A. County where the homeless population tops 60,000, and progress to provide shelter has been slow. In New York City, Mayor DeBlasio is working to fill vacant hotel rooms with homeless people, but says the city can’t afford to pay for it. In both California and New York state, FEMA may step in to foot the bill.
Torontonians have taken issues with the domes in the past, too. In 2019, Dinner With A View, a traveling experiential luxury dining pop-up in which Georgiev is a partner, was met with similar protest. People argued then too that using domes for fine dining when they could be providing housing for the city’s homeless population was a misuse of resources that catered to the privileged elite. (Lmnts would not confirm whether these were the same domes). While the hot yoga domes seem to have generated a similar sentiment, the classes are still well-attended and are typically 90 percent sold out.
But not all profits go into the pockets of the event’s team of four organizers. Georgiev says that Lmnts intends to give back through donations to nonprofits like the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH) and PowerFilled Youth TO (PFYTO). Georgiev says that Lmnts has also donated the domes for a charity event led by a BIPOC yoga group on July 5.
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