News / Vancouver

Can't 'namaste' here: Vancouver yogis 'lunged' into uncertainty by parks rules

Many have enjoyed daily by-donation yoga in a Mount Pleasant park. Now they'll have to strike a warrior pose to stay—or take their sun salutations elsewhere

In Vancouver's Dude Chilling Park — also known as Guelph Park, in Mount Pleasant — a yoga group has held daily by-donation classes for several years, as shown in this aerial drone photograph showing them practicing.

Supplied/Dude Chilling Yoga Collective/Jon West

In Vancouver's Dude Chilling Park — also known as Guelph Park, in Mount Pleasant — a yoga group has held daily by-donation classes for several years, as shown in this aerial drone photograph showing them practicing.

Did Vancouver's park board over-stretch its interpretation of the rules when it put a halt to umpermitted yoga classes in Dude Chilling Park this weekend?

Or did the yogis congregating twice daily in the Mount Pleasant green space get a little too "chill" and lunge a pose too far in a public space without a permit?

"We have been operating in a legal grey area with the city for the past years," the Dude Chilling Yoga Collective posted to its Facebook page on Saturday, "and have now been informed that we are not going to be allowed to offer classes as we have been at the park.

"At this time we do not have the means to organize and pay for the required permits that the city is imposing on us … It is very sad to all of us and we will miss practicing with you."

Vancouver park board chair Michael Wiebe told Metro that "free yoga is something we look forward to supporting," but that any organized recreational event needs to get a permit, which costs $15-19 an hour — however, "there are groups that could help them with funding."

"Permits ensure if there is an issue, we know who to talk to," he explained in a phone interview. "It's more of a coordination thing.

"There's been groups doing yoga there for a couple years, but someone made a comment and staff went to double-check they had a permit … Permits make sure the parks are being used in an appropriate way."

For several years, the group's offered two classes a day starting in spring for yogis of "all levels" for no charge or a donation, weather permitting. But according to the Vancouver Board of Parks and Recreation website, while the city's parks are available for anyone in the public to use for private recreation, even groups, all "organized recreational activities" need a special park board permit and separate city permit application — four months in advance, and requiring insurance.

"Groups and individuals planning to access public land for informal and casual use do not require a permit," the city states. "If you want to use park space for organized recreation activities, whether you charge a fee or not, you must have a permit."

The park board website lists among those organized activities fitness classes, bootcamps, swimming lessons, yoga classes and dog training.

The city also explains on its website that in reviewing permit applications, "The focus of event approvals is to make sure that events are safe, and don’t negatively affect the community."

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