About two to three years ago, the internet and yoga world got into a bit of a wild ride when goat yoga became “a thing” and hundreds of people signed up to join a class. In Oregon, the owner of No Regrets Farm started holding yoga classes. At the time, there was a whopping 1,200-person waitlist!

And from that sprung a bunch of other “yoga with animals” trends: dogs, cats, bunnies, and even horses. Yoga studios would advertise that they’d have lessons with animals and people would flock over to practice yoga around animals that might or might not disrupt their bridge pose.

And with more people practicing yoga nowadays – for reasons not attributed to spending time with animals – it seems like a good time as any to ask around: Do yoga and animals go together?

What is it?

Let’s break down what the yoga-with-animals trend is. For starters, your animal companion will not be doing yoga. You will.

We interviewed Denise Roco-de Leon, a yoga instructor and a furparent to four adopted dogs, who said, “Animal yoga is highly ‘unrecommended’ as it stresses out the animal and is unnatural for them.” Not wrong.

This is why it’s important to pay attention to what you’re looking at when you see studios advertising “animal yoga”. If they explicitly state that the animals are just freely roaming around, then there is no problem.

But there are cases where that isn’t so, as is the case with some “doga” or dog yoga practices (if you can even call them practices) where humans have their dogs stay of even stand in a variety of yoga poses. That’s obviously not what you want for your pet no matter how “cute” you may think it is.

Yea or nay?

“Dogs are like humans. There are some that just stay put and watch while the human does yoga. Other doggies like to play. Ours are mostly like that, makulit.” Denise said about practicing yoga with her dogs.

What should happen with animal yoga is that one enjoys yoga and its health benefits while connecting with the animals one spends time with.

People who practice yoga around animals can reap the benefits not only physically but mentally. Lainey Morse, owner of No Regrets Farm in Oregon, mentioned in an interview that her goats helped her cope with her divorce and an autoimmune disease that put her day job on hold. Morse started Goat Happy Hour where people were allowed to come to the farm and mingle with the goats. From there, a yoga instructor asked if she could teach classes on the property around the goats. Morse agreed and the rest is history.

It wasn’t just with goats. Even other kinds of animal yoga have a positive effect. For example, in Vancouver, “bunny yoga” was a thing in 2015. (They were definitely way ahead of their time with this!) Again, a bunny rabbit attempting even just a corpse pose is ridiculous, which is why the whole point of the event hosted by the Small Animal Rescue Society of BC is to spend an hour connecting with the bunnies hopping about (and maybe even adopting them at the end of the session).Yoga by itself is already known for being therapeutic. Add animals to the mix, triggering the release of dopamine and endorphins, and you’re in for guaranteed fun. Sure, your poses may be interrupted by a furry tail tickling your limbs or a wet nose poking your face, but there’s no denying that having animals around will get your mood up.

Denise mentions how she and her husband, who is also a practicing yoga instructor, sometimes bring in their dogs with them when they practice. “We allow pets if they’re in a mood just to sit by. If they get kulit and start licking, jumping, or staying on the yoga mat while practice, we gotta bring them out.”

We can’t emphasize enough…

…That it’s all about how you do it and why. Spending time with an animal companion and practicing yoga may sound fun, but maybe don’t let your dog attempt a chair pose. That’s not exactly natural for them and nobody wants to inadvertently harm their furbabies.

Just having animals around doing their thing while you practice your poses and breathing techniques is calming, but animals shouldn’t be used as props for yoga. While yoga and animals can go together, it’s best if the animals aren’t treated like objects – that is, they shouldn’t be used for profit or as tools for any fitness activity.

Maybe don’t scream too loudly though when animals take a poop near you, in case you decide to practice yoga with them.

This appeared in Animal Scene magazine’s December 2019 issue.

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