There's no denying that a yoga class filled with adorable animals sounds like a picturesque way to find peace and relaxation. Goats, puppies, kittens—you name it, they're there.
And it's not just about the experience either. Who can resist the charm of sharing a post-workout selfie with a cute little creature? However, it's crucial to realize that these practices can potentially have far-reaching implications, especially concerning the welfare of these adorable participants.
The ethics behind animal yoga
Recently, the ethical issues behind animal yoga have come to light, particularly since a disturbing investigation in the United Kingdom revealed some unsettling practices. Small puppies, some as young as six weeks old, were denied their essential needs such as sleep and water during puppy yoga sessions. These classes often take place in hot rooms, for extended periods, without any option for the puppies to leave if overheated or stressed.
Unfortunately, participants of these sessions are often not given any guidance on safely handling these little ones, leading to instances of young puppies being dropped and subjected to distress.
Even seemingly benign actions, such as forcing puppies to stay awake or overstimulating them with too many people, can lead to undue stress and health issues.
Negative experiences with humans in puppyhood can lead to adult dogs who are fearful, reactive, and have behavioral issues.
Why puppies and kittens are particularly vulnerable
Puppies and kittens, much like human infants, have specific needs. They require frequent naps, gentle handling, and predictable routines to thrive. Furthermore, their immune systems are still developing, making them susceptible to diseases in public spaces.
The high-energy, bustling environment of a yoga class - even one that's supposed to be focused on relaxation - may not provide the calm, secure environment they need during these formative weeks.
The wider issue
Disturbingly, these practices seem to be quite common within the animal yoga industry. From being chased around the room to being cuddled against their will, these animals are often subjected to distressing conditions.
Not only does this raise concerns about their physical well-being but also about their mental health. It's widely recognized that animals are capable of complex experiences, feelings, and emotions. Thus, the way we interact with them can significantly impact their overall well-being, particularly in their youth.
The social media impact
In the era of Instagram, Snapchat, and TikTok, it's no surprise that puppy yoga has exploded in popularity. What’s more picture-perfect than a downward dog next to a real dog?
Influencers and everyday users alike flock to these classes, armed with smartphones to capture every cute interaction. These images, videos, and boomerangs have proliferated on social media, driving the demand for more classes and events.
But while the heart-melting photos and viral videos might suggest an idyllic experience, the impact on the animals is often overlooked in pursuit of the perfect post. It's important to remember that while these experiences may generate likes, shares, and followers, they could also inadvertently contribute to practices that harm the very animals that we love.
Social media has an influential role to play, and with that comes a responsibility to prioritize animal welfare as much as engagement metrics.
Reframing our approach to puppy yoga
Just as we prioritize our well-being through practices like yoga, it's crucial we extend the same consideration to our soulful sidekicks. While there is no harm in enjoying time with pets during our leisure activities, it should never be at the expense of their comfort or health.
We can begin reframing the approach to puppy and kitten yoga by advocating for classes where the pets present are owned by the participants. This not only allows for a more controlled environment but also ensures the animals are with individuals who understand their specific needs and behaviors.
Fostering empathy, awareness, and mindfulness
In yoga, the principles of empathy, awareness, and mindfulness are paramount. By keeping these principles at the forefront of our minds, we can ensure that puppy yoga classes – and indeed, any activities involving pets – are conducted in a way that respects and supports the wellbeing of all participants, both two-legged and four-legged.
Our hope is not to condemn puppy yoga, but rather to stimulate a meaningful dialogue about animal welfare within wellness spaces. By being informed and conscious participants, we can help cultivate an environment where love for yoga and love for our pets harmoniously coexist, without compromising the health or happiness of either.
While the concept of practicing yoga alongside cute animals seems like a charming idea, it's crucial to consider the welfare of these animals. Ethical practices and regulations need to be put in place to ensure that these animals are not just cute props, but sentient beings whose welfare is respected and prioritized. After all, yoga is about harmony and balance, and that should include our curious copilots as well.
Lizz Caputo is the Manager of Content Strategy at Figo, animal enthusiast, and owner of a rescued senior American Bully. Her hobbies include checking out new restaurants in her area, boxing, and petting dogs of all shapes and sizes.