What is Animal Yoga?
Animal yoga – a craze that has been sweeping the nation for the last few years – has come to London, and it looks like it’s here to stay.
If you’ve ever been to a yoga class, chances are you will have heard a few animal names being bandied about: from the famous cobra pose to the ‘cat to cow’ sequence, wild creatures have long proved a source of inspiration to yogis across the world. And with good reason: animals are strong, agile, and flexible.
It’s little surprise, then, that a number of inventive yoga teachers have sought to bring animals into their classes in a more literal way. ‘Doga’, which was created by Mahny Djahanguiri in 2012, allows attendees to bring their pets to class and improve their practice – whilst strengthening the bond between themselves and their four-legged friends. ‘Doga is a human yoga practice that helps support the natural bond we have with our dog. You don’t need to be good at Doga or even good at yoga!’ Djahanguiri explains. ‘By releasing any tension, stress or anxiety you automatically help your dog to be more accepting and feel secure to meet other dogs without worrying about you. Yoga can help this process and Doga is the magic glue that derives from your internal practice of Yoga.’
But animal yoga hasn’t stopped with doga. The last few years have also seen the rise of yoga with cats, yoga with rabbits, and even yoga with alpacas! In this blog, we’ll run down some of the best places in London to hone your salute to the sun whilst indulging your animal instincts (or simply overloading on cuteness!).
Yoga with Dogs
London’s original animal yoga class, Dogamahny, continues to thrive 6 years after its inception. Spearheaded by Mahny Djahanguiri, an experienced yogi and Europe’s leading doga practitioner (and founder of the practice), Dogamahny classes aim to improve the bond between owner and pet through a focus on breath, fun (a sense of humour is a must!) and reducing stress. Classes are suitable for small or large dogs, and take place several times a month in Hoxton and Greenwich. Each session lasts 90 minutes and costs £25.
Or, if you find yourself in North London, why not pop into the Light Yoga Space? Many of their drop-in classes – which are taught in the Sivananda tradition – are now dog friendly. The aim of this practice is not to focus on the animal; rather, participants – those with or without pooches – continue with a normal class but with the added benefit of animal companionship. As the studio puts it, ‘this class is for anyone who wants to learn and practice real yoga, in a beautiful space, with their furry friends to keep them company’. All ‘Bring Your Dog to Yoga’ sessions are clearly marked DF and are appropriate for beginners and expert yogis alike.
Yoga with Cats and Bunnies
Readers of the blog will be familiar with Lady Dinah’s Cat Emporium thanks to our popular round-up of cat cafes. Did you know that Lady Dinah’s holds occasional animal yoga classes, too, where keen yogis can practice with an experienced teacher in the soothing company of the venue’s finest felines? With a special events calendar comprising pet first aid, high tea and cat bingo in addition to cat yoga, this famous cat café is a must for any feline aficionado.
If you prefer your animal yoga in miniature, however, look no further than Pets Yoga – London’s first yoga club for people who love baby animals. Yep, that’s right: we’re talking about yoga with kittens, bunnies, puppies… if it’s little and furry, you’ll probably find it here. Promising the ‘ultimate relaxing experience’, Pets Yoga allows participants to hone their yoga skills alongside a free-roaming group of baby animals (all of which are provided by licenced breeders or charities). All you need do is book your place (tickets cost £35); bring a mat; and prepare for cuteness overload.
Yoga Under the Sea
In addition to her regular classes, London-based yoga guru Daria – who credits yoga with having helped her battle Chronic Fatigue Syndrome – also runs a series of special workshops and retreats each year. One particular highlight is the ‘Under the Sea’ animal yoga class at the London Aquarium, which gives attendees the chance to work through a flowing yoga sequence amidst an awe-inspiring array of sealife (including Betty, the aquarium’s bowmouthed guitarfish). It may sound cutesy, but there are real benefits to combining marine-based meditation with yoga; in fact, researchers from Plymouth University and the Universty of Exeter found that those who spent a period of time observing marine life experienced noticeable reductions in blood pressure and heart rate.
As well as the class, participants will also be treated to an after-hours tour of the aquarium – and 50% of each ticket sold will go to the Sealife Trust.
Tickets are £30 each but places are limited (the March 2019 event sold out quickly); so if you fancy practising your stretches under the gaze of sharks and stingrays, it’s worth keeping a close eye on Daria’s workshops page for updates.