A YOGA instructor who’s been told she can’t reopen has bemoaned ‘ridiculous’ guidelines that have seen gyms allowed to come back into operation.

Sarah Wilson said her studio on Barnsley Road, Penistone, which has acted as a safe space for clients since well before the pandemic struck, could be forced to close permanently if restrictions persist.

More importantly than physical exercise, her yoga and pilates classes have given local people - particularly women - a source of wellbeing and mental health support that’s been vital this year more than ever.

While gyms can reopen, providers aren’t permitted to run classes.

And Sarah - whose Equanimity Studio is one of the few dedicated venues in the borough - is lobbying the government to reconsider the position, alongside yoga instructors across the country.

“Within the very same space I would do classes, if I was to get ten running machines and space them out in the same way as I do the mats, I would be allowed to operate,” said the 48-year-old who lives in nearby Wortley.

“It’s totally ridiculous.

“I fully support the reopening of gyms, but people who come to me go running and to the gym, and come here for different reasons.

“Particularly in Penistone which is quite a self-contained community, the studio is a saviour for many people.

“It’s more of a community support group than a gym class where people are sweating heavily.

“A lot of people who come to me have formed friendship groups, and go walking together and connect outside classes.

“I also do children’s yoga, and will sometimes have mother, daughter and grandmother all in at the same time.”

Sarah, who has more than 2,000 registered clients and works six days a week, started doing classes specifically for women going through the menopause prior to the latest lockdown.

She also caters to those with multiple sclerosis and Parkinson’s disease.

At full capacity her studio accommodates 18 people, but since the first lockdown ended in July she’s put on limited classes of ten people.

Sarah’s also implemented a number of social distancing and hygiene measures, including track-and-trace booking, a one-way system and antibacterial gel on hands and feet.

She said: “Many women were on hormone replacement therapy and antidepressants and had come off of those - but many have actually had to go back onto them.

“Recently we have been doing Zoom classes, but it’s not the same as being in a room with a community of likeminded people.

“I have some older clients who hadn’t been out of the house, and the first place they felt confident enough to go to was my studio.

“It’s been quite upsetting seeing those people’s changes in mental health over all that time.

“We are not a problem to health services - we are part of the solution.”

Penistone Coun Hannah Kitching, a former physiotherapist, knows the value of services such as Equanimity.

“I really feel the frustration of Sarah and her clients about the inconsistencies of this new set of regulations, when last time studios like hers were promoted to open,” she said.

“I support gyms reopening and am a gym-goer myself, but the fact is they’re not accessible for everyone.

“I know a lot of physios refer people to pilates and these types of classes take stress off of the NHS.

“It seems like an oversight to me. There is no reason these settings can’t open.

“We all know lockdown is taking a massive toll on people’s mental health and I really hope this is addressed sooner rather than later.”