After financial pressures from COVID-19, and what owner Selam Debs describes as violent hateful messages online, Juici Yoga studio is closing its doors indefinitely.
In an Instagram post, Debs explains the studio’s last day will be Dec. 31.
The small black-owned business in Waterloo, Ont., was hit with thousands of what Debs calls “racist violent messages” from people against mask and vaccine-passport mandates.
“We started to receive harm and violence and messages that we were discriminating, that we were taking away people’s freedoms,” Debs told CTV’s Your Morning on Friday. “We started to notice that rhetoric starting, really closer to the beginning of the pandemic.”
She said the business prioritized COVID-19 safety protocols and protecting people who are immunocompromised.
During the trucker convoy in Ottawa earlier this year, Debs took to social media to voice her thoughts on the protests as an antiracism and anti-oppression educator.
“I spoke out about what we see in our communities and throughout Canada, and started to receive 1000s of hateful, violent, racist messages, along with death threats, that led to many different changes that we had to make within our business,” Debs said of the aftermath.
In a post on Facebook, Debs called on people to publicly condemn violence, racism, white supremacy, and white nationalist violence.
In another instance, Juici Yoga Studio received “hundreds of racist-harmful messages” for teaching yoga to Black faculty, students, and staff at the University of Guelph.
“My situation is an example of why anti-racism work is so necessary,” Debs said. “I could tell, really, dozens and dozens of stories that have happened in the last couple of years, that have been incredibly traumatizing to me as a Black business owner and as a community member.”
Debs took over the yoga studio when it was named Community of Hearts Yoga in 2016. From there she started teaching classes and transformed the business into a “beloved community rooted in equity, decolonization and care.”
Despite the increase in violence, many in the community are saddened to hear of the closing.
“I feel that how I will best be able to serve my community is really focusing on Black, Indigenous and racialized communities,” Debs said. “And really focusing on those communities and creating a space where healing and yoga and meditation and activism really intersect in a real meaningful way.”
Click the video at the top of this article to hear more of Debs’ experience.