It’s no novel idea that spending time with animals is good for your health. According to the American Heart Association, living with a dog increases life expectancy; and the Minnesota Stroke Institute reports that those living with a cat have a 30% lower chance of dying of heart disease. Horses have been used to help individuals heal from trauma in a practice called equine therapy, and dogs can be registered as Therapy Dogs that ease their owner’s chronic anxiety. People have even gone so far as registering ferrets and even a peacock as official therapy animals! Animals are truly capable of affecting our emotions in positive ways.
Combining animals with yoga, the other famous mood-lifter, is an exciting trend and one that I’ve had the pleasure of experiencing myself. While practicing yoga with animals may not give you the physical workout of an ashtanga or vinyasa practice, it delivers mental and emotional results in spades. You will leave your animal yoga class feeling positive, perhaps silly, and with the satisfaction one feels after trying something new and enjoying it. Animal yoga transforms almost any bad mood into a good one, and offers the participant the opportunity of becoming acquainted with animals in a new way.
For example, did you know that baby goats love to climb and will suddenly jump onto a person’s back, in say, a downward dog pose? Did you know that butterflies sleep at night, like we do, but as the sun rises they will slowly bat their wings, gently take off, and perhaps land on your shoulder while you stand in a tree pose? Maybe while you stretch out your shoulders, a kitten will come join you on your mat, in cat yoga. Animal yoga is not just a mood-booster, but is also surprising and invites the participant to live in, and enjoy, the moment.
Below I have offered a few examples of the many yoga with animals classes that have made their way into mainstream culture. If you cannot attend any now due to quarantine or geographical distance, perhaps make plans for the future for when we are past this. Or, next time you do a nice home practice, invite your dog or cat to join you. They may add that extra something to the day. And maybe we can all learn something by the way animals never fail to live in the moment.
Happy animal practicing, yogis!
- Perhaps the most popular of the yoga with animals trend, goat yoga is a wonderful way to spend a morning or afternoon. Physical practice is usually 45 minutes, and then the rest of class is given to petting the goats and giving them treats. Some classes have adult goats and some have baby goats (kids!) but they always have goats small enough so that it doesn’t hurt when they climb on you. Goats are silly and playful animals and often do funny things during class. I’ve had goats chew on my mat, lie on my mat for 45 minutes, and climb onto my back. So fun! I highly recommend goat yoga. It will have you smiling.
Goat Yoga, Jackson Hole, Wyoming
- Butterfly yoga is available at some butterfly pavilions, sanctuaries, and zoos. This class is best taken early in the morning. When you arrive, the butterflies are asleep on plants and trees.. As you practice, they begin to wake up by slowly batting their wings. After a while they take off, and by the end of class they are fluttering around the plants and the yogis. Class is normally 50 minutes, followed by a savasana where butterflies land on your clothes, and then time is given to wander the pavilion quietly with the butterflies. My experience at butterfly yoga was beautiful and peaceful. It feels like a fairy garden. Recommend.
Butterfly Yoga, Westminster, Colorado
- A wonderful thing about cat yoga is that it is normally held at a cat adoption center and something like 75% of the cats that participate get adopted. In my experience, the cats are not terribly engaged with the yoga practitioners but having them around, sleeping in their beds or wandering the room, adds to the mental relaxation aspect of the yoga with animals experience. Plus, it is inspiring to see the flexibility of a cat as you work on your own flexibility.😉 This is a must-try for cat lovers.
Cat Yoga, Manhattan, NY
Mini pig Yoga, Denver, Colorado
Bunny Yoga, Vancouver, Canada
Llama Yoga, Martha’s Vineyard, Massachusetts
Have you tried yoga with animals?