This age-old practice helps save lives (hint: namaste)

Best Friends offers yoga with adoptable cats, dogs, bunnies, pigs and goats at our Sanctuary in Utah, lifesaving centers around U.S., and at events.
By Mary-Jo Dionne

There’s a lot to be said for getting centered. Heck, ask any animal lover and we will likely all agree that spending time with our cherished pets is a surefire way to do just that. Hearing a cat purring loudly or watching a dog blissfully enjoying a belly rub allows us to set aside the hectic parts of the day and focus on the present. But what happens when you couple those Zen-inducing pet perks with the age-old, time-tested practice of heading for the yoga mat?

You get popular programs like NKLA’s yoga classes in L.A. with adoptable cats (called ME-OM), for one. And the Purrs and Poses classes at the Best Friends Visitor Center in Kanab, Utah, for another. You also get a rise in group “doga” classes — dogs and people doing yoga together — at nationwide events like Best Friends’ annual Strut Your Mutt fundraisers. Pig and goat yoga are gaining a following too. And why not?

Oh sure, the benefits to us human types are plentiful. We enjoy the health and wellness advantages that come with committing to time spent in lotus position, and we also get to spend quality time with ridiculously cute yoga buddies — adoptable pets. However, there are two beautiful sides to this new twist in yoga practice. The adoptable cats and dogs (and yes, even bunnies) who join us on the mat get to experience some extra socialization as well as interact with potential adopters, all in a calm and serene setting.

It’s not just our limbs that we are bending when we do a downward-facing dog beside an actual downward-facing dog, or when we do happy baby pose alongside a happy bunny. We’re bending our preconceived notions, too. For example, Best Friends’ Carrie Smith, manager of the Best Friends Visitor Center, says this about bunny yoga: “I wanted to have an event to showcase our adoptable bunnies and allow us the opportunity to talk to people who are considering buying a bunny. At the beginning of every class, I do a five-minute intro to discuss the misconceptions around bunnies and ask folks to consider adoption rather than buying.”

As much as the animals and the yogis get out of these classes, there’s one more thing they can all agree on: Every yoga class gets these pets one step closer to finding their forever om. (Sorry. We couldn’t resist.)

Woman doing yoga on a blue mat while a dog looks up at her

Group of women doing yoga outside with some potbellied pigs

Woman doing yoga nose-to-nose with a cat

Women doing yoga in an outside building with goats

Women doing yoga at the Best Friends Visitor's Center with a group of three rabbits in front of them

Group of women in a room doing yoga with a bunch of kittens

Australian cattle dog lying next to someone doing yoga with a couple other women

Woman bending over doing a yoga pose while smiling face-to-face with a goat

Woman laughing while doing yoga next to a pig

Black and white cat hiding in the folds of a yoga mat

This article originally appeared in Best Friends magazine. You can subscribe to the magazine by becoming a Best Friends member.

Photos by Sarah Ause Kichas, Molly Wald and Stacey Axelrod