Doing a downward dog while surrounded by actual barking dogs is not the most calming of endeavours (and yes, it does slightly undermine the whole point of yoga) but I found out it can actually offer a whole host of other mental and physical benefits.
Pets yoga might sound like just another wellness craze – joining the likes of aerial yoga, naked yoga, and even goat yoga – but the unique combination of physical exercise and mood-boosting furry friends could just make it the best workout you’ve ever had.
In London, there are just a handful of companies organising yoga with pets – though given its popularity, we suspect this will not be the case for much longer – and Pets Yoga is leading the way.
Launched by Imane Makrat in 2018, Pets Yoga is fast becoming one of the most sought-after animal yoga classes, offering everything from classes with kittens and puppies to rabbits.
Its Instagram account has more than 26,800 followers and the company was recently featured on the reality TV show Spencer, Vogue and Baby Too – model Vogue Williams’ bachelorette party was a puppy yoga class. Classes sell out within hours.
When The Independent went along to try Pets Yoga, the six puppies were all cross-breeds; a mixture of cane corso and chow chow puppies (you’re also likely to get huskies and labradors if you go).
While it was not ideal when the puppies started chewing on my hair, eating my socks, or barking relentlessly, it was lovely having such adorable creatures running around during the class.
“I just wanted to create an activity that connects people and pets,” says Makrat, who explains that the sessions are just as beneficial to the humans as the animals themselves.
There are lots of medical professionals who say spending time with pets is good for mental health
“It’s an opportunity as well for the animals to learn how to socialise with people in a relaxing environment,” she tells The Independent.
“There are also a lot of medical professionals who say that spending time with pets is really good for mental health.
“And there are so many pet lovers in London who don’t have the chance to own pets in their own homes, so we are quite lucky to have a huge demand and we hope it continues.”
The owners are usually present throughout the classes just to ensure everything runs smoothly.
“The pets are also given time to nap in between classes,” Makrat says, pointing out that most animals will do just half a day of yoga classes, usually from 9am till 3pm.
Prior to starting the company, Makrat spent months looking into the ethics of doing yoga with animals: how many hours of yoga classes can the puppies feasibly participate in at once? How old should they be? And from where should you source them?
“It was a priority for me to make sure the animals that we use come from owners who give them a happy and healthy life and have kept them up to date with their vaccinations,” she says.
As for ages, she has settled on puppies that are usually between eight and 15 weeks (and a similar age for the other animals).
It’s worth pointing out that the class itself doesn’t involve holding the animals and doing yoga poses with them.
It’s simply about doing a normal, though rather basic, yoga class while animals run and play freely around you.
The classes are also split into sections: 20 minutes of yoga and 10 minutes of “cuddles” when people are encouraged to play with the animals, of which there are usually five or six depending on how many participants are in the class.
Overall I’d say this is obviously not a class for those looking to do some serious yoga – I don’t think I managed more than one or two moves without getting distracted by the pets – but as I quickly learned, Pets Yoga is not really about the yoga at all.
That said, doing the final shavasana pose, also known as resting pose, felt more relaxing than ever with a sleeping puppy on my belly.
You can find out more about Pets Yoga and its upcoming classes here
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