Yoga: It’s Not Just for Mats Anymore
By Stacy Milbouer and Tom Long
Fiddlehead Contributing Editors
Downward dog, child pose, crescent lunge, warrior II, plank. Spread out your yoga mat and assume the positions. Go ahead. Go solo. It’s spiritual, it’s invigorating, but traditional studio yoga is not your only choice these days.
Yoga, with its emphasis on integrating body and mind, has been around for thousands of years, but it’s only recently that bunnies, goats and dogs got into the act. And then there is snowshoe and hiking yoga, glow yoga, laughing yoga – the list goes on.
The practice is designed to integrate the mind, body and spirit to achieve a state of enlightenment or oneness with the universe. Nobody said you couldn’t have company.
But even though the practice is ancient, that doesn’t mean there aren’t new iterations all the time.
“Nature is my studio,” said Kate Kretschmer of Bow, who has gotten national attention for inventing snowshoe yoga which she describes as “a (two-hour) gentle and rigorous snowshoe hike infused with mindfulness and yoga.” She was featured on the “Today Show” last year.
She said while the yoga is more adapted to standing poses when on snowshoes, which provide a lot of stability, participants do end up on their bellies on the ground.
“It’s nice because it may be really cold when we start out, but after the hike and yoga, everyone is sweating by the end. It’s a great way to get through the winter,” she said.
And the natural backdrop of trees, sky and clouds serve as the perfect setting for mindfulness and other meditative practices. The instructor holds her classes on trails in Bow as well as at Prescott Farms in Laconia.
She has been a yoga teacher for adults and children for more than two decades and also teaches third grade in Hampstead, coaches the middle school cross country team and raises her two sons with her husband, Joe.
And in warmer weather, Kretschmer teaches trail or hiking yoga. To check out when classes are scheduled, visit ommamalife.com
Need a good chuckle and along with your spiritual practice? Try laughter yoga. Created within the last 25 years in India, it involves prolonged, voluntary laughter and is based on the concept that this kind of “forced” laughter, combined with yoga breathing, offers the same physical and mental benefits as spontaneous, naturally induced laughter.
According to her website, Peterborough yoga instructor, Peggy Cappy (peggycappy.com), creator of the PBS “Yoga for the Rest of Us” DVD, was introduced to the concept on a trip to Mumbai in 2012 and has incorporated it into her practice ever since.
On her website she describes it is as “a unique concept where anyone can laugh for no reason, without relying on humor, jokes or comedy… We initiate laughter as an exercise in a group, but with contact and childlike playfulness. It soon turns into contagious laughter.”
If you’ve yet to see the light, Janice Manzi has a bright idea. She calls it glow yoga. In this case, the practice is done under a black light with participants and instructors dressed in in bright, florescent clothing. She supplies the funky music and glow sticks at her studio Yoga by Janice in Hudson.
Got milk? Jenness Farm in Nottingham does. And they make goat milk soaps and other products in 80 different fragrances, but goat yoga really put them on the map. The first in New England to offer the pastoral practice led to appearances on several TV networks and a handful of national magazines.
The farm’s website invites participants to “stretch, strengthen, and relax the body and mind with playful and adorable goats.” Reservations are required for each class, which begins with a breathing and centering exercise before breathing and movement are combined to “strengthen, stretch, and relax the mind and body.”
It continues to say, “Often the goats’ energy level mimics the activity in class, other times it does not. Either way, you are sure to smile a lot. We are certain that you will leave feeling better than when you came in. Classes are held rain or shine. Mats are provided for all classes. Namaaaaaste.”
And this cautionary note: “We highly recommend wearing full back shirts as little hooves can scratch exposed back skin. Long hair should be worn up in bun, a bandana or baseball cap (baby goats like to nibble on hair!). We suggest that you do not wear any flowy clothes as the babies like to nibble on loose clothing, pant legs or strings. As babies can, and sometimes do have accidents, we suggest that you bring a change of clothing to leave in the car…just in case.”
Jenness Farm is not the only place to get your goat. Goat yoga programs were held earlier this year at the Biergarten at the Anheuser-Busch Brewery in Merrimack. Joy Aldrich of Joyful Yoga-NH led the two 45-minute session. Participants were then invited to take a tour of the brewery and were awarded a token for an ice cold brewski after the session.
You prefer a fuzzy yoga partner on the smaller side? Well there is yoga with rabbits. The Animal Rescue League New Hampshire held a bunny yoga session conducted by Forever Yoga last September at its headquarters in Bedford. It was not BYOB (bring your own bunny) ― the rescue league provided shelter rabbits, which were available for adoption.
Some yogis are going to the dogs. It’s called dog yoga, or doga, and Fido is invited to participate. The practice is reported to have begun in 2001 when New York yoga instructor Suzi Tietelman integrated her cocker spaniel into her routine. She called it “ruff yoga,” but later began calling tit doga.
The practice is intended to allow one to spend quality time and bond with your pooch. There are two ways to go about it. In the United States, the dog is treated as the object of the practice. In Canada, the pup is treated as a partner.
The movements include “heart and hound,” in which your sit cross-legged with your pooch with one hand on your heart and the other on your dog’s chest. There’s also the “seated bridge” position, creating an arch with your body, with shoulders flat on the ground and your dog resting on your abdomen.
Doga is not without its cautions. The United Kingdom Charity Dogs Trust has warned that, “It is important to remember that dogs can’t tell us when they have had enough, doga and any variation of it, should always be carried out under the watchful eye of trained professionals.”