Welcome back. This is part two of a three part series on the question of ethical fitness business ownership and operation during the Coronavirus pandemic.
Hey, thanks for stepping back into the work with me. So, some disclaimers to start us off– I am an educator, a parent, a yoga teacher, and a yoga studio co-owner. I am not an expert in at least 50% of those things and also not an expert economist, epidemiologist, MPH, doctor, nurse, etc . . . I know just enough about the human body to advocate for myself and my family at doctor’s appointments, and enough about the economy to know it is incredibly complex and also likewise, incredibly fragile.
I say that to clarify that while my last post focused on why being a yoga teacher is probably actually not my place (and to prompt you to consider if it’s not yours either), this part is going to focus on business and public health and you should know (like, be very clear please) that I am just presenting my ideas, opinions and experiences.
That doesn’t make me right.
But hey, it doesn’t make you right either so here we go.
Building on Part One, let’s add a layer of depth to the discussion of Yamas, Niyamas, and who has a right to sell fitness, and talk about public health. As a member of modern day society I have an obligation to care about others more than I care about myself as I do not, notably, live in total isolation from all living beings, and I am actually entirely dependent on the health of the Whole for the health and survival of myself.
What I do impacts the people around me. What they do impacts me. Where I go and who I interact with impacts every single point of contact I make. I bring every previous interaction with me to the next one. If I go to the store for food, and then to Home Depot for say, a hammer, and then the gas station for fuel, I’ve now brought the people in the grocery store to the tool aisle, and the grocery store folks and the home improvement shoppers to the gas pump, and the next person who touches that pump is now friendly with all of the above including but very clearly not limited to me.
But handwashing! And masks! And Clorox wipes!
Okay yes. But those are not foolproof and there is no viable argument that they could be. As business owners, there’s really no way we can guarantee the safety of anyone who might come into and use our practice facilities, and we are dancing with Ahimsa if we do.
We cannot stay in total isolation, but we also cannot act as though we can actually eliminate risk when we don’t.
“But my risk is up to me,” you might say, “I get to decide what’s worth the risk and what’s not.” Well sure, you do, and that doesn’t come without consequences. Let’s say you only get one person sick. Just one. How many people do you think that one person might impact? Not just who might they infect, but who has to take care of them? How will them not being at their job impact others? What about their family and friends? Did they all cosign your risk taking?
Multiply this out. Spend some time looking at charts. Look at lots of different charts made by lots of smart and qualified people. Get comfortable looking at the data so you can understand on a numerical level that the choices you make impact people besides yourself on critical, often irreversible levels.
If we wipe out 10% of our population because we have decided it is too hard to wait it out, that our personal need to return to the work we want is more important than the health of the very communities that we serve, then we will have gone and shot our own metaphorical feet. If everyone gets sick, the entire economy, not just part of it, will collapse. The whole deal. All of it.
Y’all, check yourself. at the end of the day what we do is help people sweat. We are not essential. Not. Not. Not.
Essential to human life are food, water, safety, and shelter, and that’s about it. Next up are love and belonging. Take a look at the hallowed Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs as a reference if you’d like, and please note that bootcamp and power vinyasa flow aren’t at the bottom of the pyramid, folks.
Do people feel like they belong when they come to your classes? I certainly hope so. Is it the only way they can feel that? We had all better hope we haven’t help to create a power dynamic like that.
The economy functions by creating a pipeline of supply and demand that matches expressed needs. When that economy slows from pressure applied to its source we stop spending on extras and put our money into the basics.
Working out in PERSON AT a gym or studio doesn’t fall into that “basics” category.
Did and do we need stress relief? Yes, because we created a society that’s stressful. Is moving our bodies a foundational requirement of human health? Obviously, but do we need someone to teach us how to move? Only because we have chosen a lifestyle that won’t allow us to know ourselves.
Do we need women owned businesses? Hell fucking yes we do. And we should not be limited to fitness and beauty.
Do we need businesses owned by members of historically marginalized groups? Yes, yes, yessy, yes, yes. And we need to support and uplift them. And we need not to force them to sell to our delicate white tastes, place their businesses in the neighborhoods we gentrified, and ensure our white comfort in their nonwhite spaces.
If you got into this business because you wanted to help people, which I’m going to go ahead and blindly assume, do you not see the hypocrisy in your concern over your personal bottom line before public health?
If you are still arguing that it’s not about your paycheck (it is), that it’s not (just) about you losing your life’s work (everything is impermanent, friends), and that you need to get your employees back to work too, I have another question for you–
How many people does your business being closed impact financially? I’m talking employees here, and I’m going to guess that besides you, you’ve got maybe four other full time employees at best, and a half to a full dozen people who work a few hours a week. I’m also going to guess those same people can teach a virtual class for as much as if not more money than they’d make in person for you and get by okay. Maybe I’m wrong. Let me know.
How much sales revenue does your business generate for the local, state, and federal economy? Do you have sales tax on every purchase that’s heading to the tax board each quarter? Does your business being open actually stimulate the economy in a way that brings money back into it, or just into your pocket?
Your employees can get unemployment, it is the government’s responsibility to provide it for them. Advocate for THAT. There are other things you personally might have to do to earn income, and other ways you might get to show up for your community right now. Look for those things and those ways.
Give your attention to what you can do that honors the Whole. Not your ego. Not your heartache. Not your soul’s work. The Whole.
Let’s talk about would happen if we let go in part three, tomorrow.