Animal yoga offers a fresh fitness perspective

Getting in on the craze of fitness with pets, this session goes to the beagles.

beagle puppy yoga
Photo by Holly Rhue

While the The Animal Welfare League of Arlington (AWLA) has been known to host creative adoption events, their most recent endeavor was different from the rest: it combined self-care practices with opportunities to love on up-for-adoption beagle puppies.

Despite there being a waitlist of over 700 people, we were able to snag a coveted spot at the Sept. 29 Yoga with Beagle Puppies event.

During the hourlong flow session—which consisted of mostly seated and supine positions—the puppies played with tugging toys, romped around with one another and even curled up into lucky individuals’ laps, during which time participants were encouraged to “paws” their workout if they felt compelled to cuddle one of the puppies, play tug-of-war or snap a selfie.

Photo by Holly Rhue

“When people think of yoga they’re always thinking about posture, but there’s a whole world of yoga beyond the movement,” said the class’ instructor, Beth A.Wolfe. “There’s breathing and joy and laughter. We’re really tapping into some of the deeper layers of yoga that are lesser known.”

Wolfe’s resume is full of eccentric yoga events, among them beer yoga at Capitol City Brewing Company and goat yoga at farms across the state—but puppy yoga and its known health benefits are something she’s always wanted to bring to Northern Virginia. She just had to wait for the right litter.

“When we got this amazing littler of beagle puppies that are just so sweet and so drawn to people, we knew we had to do a class with them,” Chelsea Lindsay, the AWLA’s communications specialist, explained. “We ended up having a waitlist of over 700 people for this beagle puppy yoga class. So that’s 700 people that know about the shelter now and know about adoption. That’s 700 people that might not have known about us before who are now excited to come here and engage with the shelter.”

Photo by Holly Rhue

The eight puppies from the class will be available for adoption at the end of the month, and Lindsay says that the AWLA will do their best to continue puppy yoga on a bi-monthly basis. (Some puppy litters can be nervous around large groups of people or overly rambunctious, so the shelter will only allow puppies to participate if they believe that the litter has the right temperament.)

“In general, the goal of yoga is to quiet the fluctuations of your mind,” Wolfe said. “If you’re the type of person that responds to animal energy and you like being around animals, then absolutely that’s going to calm you and put you in a happier, more mindful state.”

So much of yoga has become about who’s wearing the newest Lululemon leggings, but animal yoga takes participants back to the basics.  When your focus is on the puppies, you’re not feeling self-conscious about your breathing or form and can capitalize on the emotional benefits of yoga.  Who cares if your downward dog is a little shaky when there’s a puppy pawing at your socks?

Being around animals restores relaxation and adds spirit to the practice, all while lowering blood pressure and stress levels.  And the event isn’t just a great time for it’s human participants; play time also benefits the furry friends involved.

Though there is no set date for the next puppy yoga event, Wolfe is hoping to bring goat yoga to the AWLA. Similar upcoming events can be found either on Wolfe’s site or the AWLA’s Facebook page.