Yoga with Animals: Furry Fad or Real Deal?
When yoga with animals started trending a few years ago, many expected it to be a quick fad. But videos continue to circulate social media. First it was cats, then dogs, then … goats? Since then, countless animal yoga classes have started, including yoga with bunnies, pigs, chickens and horses — and they don’t seem to be going anywhere anytime soon. So why are they so popular?
At its core, animal yoga is simply a blend of two activities that improve your mental health. Yes, yoga is about physical strength, flexibility and muscle growth. But it’s also largely a practice that focuses on improving your mental state, focusing on the present and relieving stress. Animals, too, have shown to have tremendous benefits on their owners.
Many studies have shown that regular interaction with animals is correlated with lower blood pressure, increased levels of dopamine and serotonin (also called “happy hormones”), and a lower chance of suffering from depression. Doctors have picked up on this, and it’s no longer uncommon to be prescribed a certified “companion animal” for conditions like depression, anxiety or PTSD.
With all of this in mind, it seems only natural that getting into Downward Facing Dog with your favorite furry friend would improve your mood. But on the other hand, isn’t it distracting? If yoga is just as much about trying to focus as it is physical growth, then having cats wind around your feet while you’re in tree pose seems a little bit perplexing.
While this may be the case for some, many animal yoga instructors have actually argued the opposite. In a world of notifications, tweets and likes, it can be hard to find simplicity and peace. The animals keep yoga from becoming just another Instagram photo, reminding students of the beauty of their natural surroundings. It’s the perfect back-to-basics activity to keep focused on the present rather than the next post.
In addition to benefiting the students practicing yoga, animal yoga has also turned into a great opportunity for the animals involved. Many animal shelters have taken advantage of the unique trend by volunteering spaces for yoga classes to be held. Students can practice their poses while dogs or cats that are up for adoption play among the class, giving them more interaction with humans and even the potential to be adopted.
It may seem a little sillier than what you typically picture when you think of a yoga class, but perhaps that’s the point. While everything else is so serious, so pertinent, so weighty — animal yoga brings a lighthearted joy to your everyday workout routine.
Credit: Photo by ErharYaksaa - Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0