New Zealand yoga industry suffers as anti-vax sentiment co-opts wellness industry | New Zealand


Many know Wanaka, a picturesque tourist town at the foot of New Zealand’s Southern Alps, for its most famous tree.

The willow, which strangely blooms from the glacial lake as if it were floating on water, represents different things to different people. For some, miracles of a divine nature, for others, a wonder easily explained by science.

In recent months, another unlikely phenomenon has taken hold among its residents.

Three weeks ago, in what many local clients describe as a “sudden move,” three of the city’s four yoga studios simultaneously called their last names and closed their doors.

“The last time I went there was nothing in the course to suggest that things were changing, then I went online to book my next course and found out I couldn’t do it,” said Judith Cullen, a resident of Tarras who had made yoga an important part of her routine.

The three studios decided they were unable – or unwilling – to operate under Aotearoa’s “traffic light” system, which requires teachers and students to be double vaccinated.

“Our studio is all about inclusion and if we can’t include everyone, we won’t include anyone,” said the owner of one of the three to shut down.

Based on local immunization rates, any vaccine skepticism in the city is relatively low. According to the most recent data from the Queenstown Lakes District, more than 99% of the region is doubly vaccinated, putting the small minority of the unvaccinated in great relief.

New Zealand’s overall vaccination rate is now 91% of the eligible population according to the Department of Health. About 40% of the workforce is covered by immunization mandates.

Problems of reluctance to immunize in the country are evident elsewhere in the country. Several calls to other yoga studios in the Auckland area indicate that some have lost up to 40% of their instructors with the introduction of the mandates.

Pilates teacher and masseuse Laura Indrine, who was teaching at one of the studios in Wanaka before it closed, has started taking clients privately following the studio closings.

Pilates teacher Laura Indrine worries that the idea of ​​wellness is distorted from its real meaning. Photography: Brooke Harwood

“The vaccination rate in Lakes Wanaka and Queenstown is very high and a lot of people who want to work out and stay in shape can feel really disappointed,” said Indrine.

“It went wrong somewhere”

Born out of the hippie movement of the 70s, wellness culture has grown into a big industry in recent years, both in New Zealand and around the world. The global sector is considered to be valued at $ 1.5 billion, with an emphasis on optimizing the physical and mental state of an individual, often ruling out modern medicine in favor of “natural” alternatives.

For many industry-savvy people, the Covid-19 vaccine, designed by big pharmaceutical companies and released on warrant through a big government, goes against their entire belief system.

A “responsive pro-vaxxer,” Indrine fears the idea of ​​well-being may be distorted from its real meaning.

“I’m sad because I work in this wellness industry and feel like people who work in wellness should be promoting health, but it has gone wrong somewhere. I don’t know where, ”Indrine said.

It may not be clear where exactly things went wrong, but few can argue about the powerful role that social media has played in the rise of anti-vax thinking in the global wellness community.

Caught between photos of downward dogs, glowing chakra, and well-lit crystal balls, the high-traffic wellness accounts have left a path of grain crumbs to more sinister conspiracy theories.

“If you are interested in yoga or wellness, you already have some pretty flourishing accounts that are popular as they are. And what you find is that it’s often a subtle pivot, and sometimes a less subtle pivot, where these wellness accounts will post similar photos, but the captions below will start to include anti-vax rhetoric. incredibly strong, ”said journalist David Farrier, who was investigate the rise of conspiracy theories in line.

The rise of this misinformation on social media was almost too much for Ursula Griffen, owner of a mindfulness business and a member of New Zealand’s spiritual wellness community.

Journalist David Farrier.
Journalist David Farrier has investigated the rise of online conspiracy theories. Photography: moth

“I saw a lot of it in my feed. I was learning “segregation,” as they called it, and that instilled fear in me, ”Griffen said.

Although she has had vaccines her entire life and never thought twice about it, the weight of misinformation around the Covid-19 vaccine has forced her to spend weeks wondering if she should or not get it.

Eventually, science and a few helpful words from her brother overseas led her to cross the line. With the help of her meditation teacher who was lecturing on radical acceptance over the car speakers, she got vaccinated at a drive-through clinic in South Auckland.

“I took my pearls that I got in Utah which were cedar berry for protective energy and I was just like, ‘I am divinely protected,’ Griffen said.

“And I got Pfizer protection as well, because I believe in it too.”