‘CRITTER’ YOGA: Genial Animals Not Shy About Meeting, Mingling With People During Class
By Maria Sonnenberg // August 26, 2018
EXERCISE TRENDS: animals have invaded yoga
BREVARD COUNTY, FLORIDA – Don’t look now, but your fellow yoga mate at your next class may be purring. Or sport horns. Or bark. Yes, the animals have invaded yoga, and that is a good thing.
“It’s very stress-relieving, and it’s fun,” said Beatrice Phillips, owner of the Inverted Elephant in Titusville.
Every six weeks, Phillips’ yoga studio hosts meowga, aka kitty yoga. As many as 14 to 16 adoptable kittens and laidback adult cats from the SPCA of Brevard are invited to the hour-long class that draws approximately 30 human participants.
“The cats will roam and wander around and lie down on the yoga mats and start purring,” said Phillips. “Some of them will pick a person and stick with them.”
With meowga, the cats are basically the onlookers while the people perform poses. It’s a win-win class for both humans and felines. Folks gladly travel from as far as Vero Beach for the opportunity of sharing their yoga experience with kitties, while shelter cats enjoy a day out with human interaction. Some even find forever homes in the process.
“We’ve had some people adopt cats they met at meowga,” said Phillips.
The class is donation-based, so participants can give as much or as little as they can afford. Donations are funneled to help the SPCA of Brevard.
Meowga is based on yin yoga, a form that focuses on relaxation and stretching. No prior yoga experience is required.
“It is open to anybody of any age and at any stage,” said Phillips.
This therapeutic form of yoga is meant to reduce joint aches and pains, particularly around the hips, lower back and pelvis.
At the south end of the county, the goats at Luna Sage Acres Farm are getting ready for the fall, the start of goat yoga season. The goats at the 11-acre farm in West Melbourne travel to local yoga studios to lend their calm and unflappable demeanor to classes.
“They love going on trips,” said owner Raina Hammond.
People, in turn, love them. More than 100 yoga (and goat) fans turned up for a class at Yoga Garden in the Eau Gallie Arts District when the Luna Sage goats visited.
While goats aren’t that adept at actually striking yoga poses, they are tailor-made for the meditative nature of the pursuit. Poet Carl Sandburg, whose family raised award-winning goats at their farm in North Carolina, once suggested that people should “try being a goat. Put on a face of quiet contemplations. Look people in the eye as though unaware they gaze at you. Read their innermost secrets. Then turn away towards other horizons chewing your cud.”
Goats are great at yoga because they are also party animals. The fun, naturally curious and generally genial animals are not shy about meeting people, mingling with them and sometimes nibbling on their toes and hair. When they tire, they just sit down to chew their cud and take in the show.
In fact, they seem downright amused at the poses those crazy humans will take during yoga. The trend to add animals to yoga began on the west coast of the country several years ago. The mother of goat yoga is farmer Lainey Morse of No Regrets Farm in Oregon.
A friend asked her to hold a yoga class area, and the experiment proved such a success that overnight goats became the hottest trend in yoga. They were followed by an array of critters that in addition to cats, include bunnies, dogs and horses.
With doga, or dog yoga, the owners help their furry friends to facilitate different poses and the pups may also be used to help their humans master their own dog-specific poses in this partner-style yoga. It gives poses such as Downward Dog a whole new look.
Horse yoga is not for the uninitiated, since the practice requires considerable skills, for it is performed on horses rather than with horses. Available at a handful of retreat centers around the country, horse yoga uses equines as basically yoga mats, with the yogi doing poses atop the back of a horse. Professional guidance – and good balance – are definite requirements.
Connecting with nature, whether a kitten or a puppy or a goat, can be a very healing experience. With yoga, animals can provide a break from the routine and ratchet the stress-busting qualities of yoga a notch or more. Their innocence and simplicity provide relief, at least during class time, from daily worries. It’s tough to feel down when a kitten plunks down to purr beside you.
However, perhaps the biggest benefit of adding animals to yoga lies in the non-judgmental nature of the beasts. No cat or goat or other creature cares about how good you look in your yoga workout apparel or how well you can nail your poses.
“All the cats want is to cuddle with you,” said Phillips.
“It’s purrfect relaxation!”
The next Meowga class at the Inverted Elephant will be held at 2 p.m. on Sept. 22. The studio is located at 2855 S. Hopkins Ave. in Titusville. For more information and registration details, call 321-749-9642 or visit invertedelephant.com. For information on goat yoga, call 321-544-1897 or visit facebook.com/lunasageacres.
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