For some, the idea of getting down on a yoga mat and exercising does not feel like an ideal use of time. Yoga instructor Kaitlin Mueller has changed that by introducing one simple element: animals.
Om Kai Yoga offers several events that incorporate animals into yoga classes, including puppy yoga, kitten yoga and goat yoga. The most recent puppy yoga event was hosted Feb. 10 at Maxline Brewing and welcomed dozens of locals as they stretched and played with little furry friends.
At Mueller’s monthly Puppy Yoga event, a group of puppies is released into the same enclosed area as an in-progress yoga class. Adorable chaos ensues as the puppies run about to greet everyone while class participants try their hardest to complete their stretches.
It isn’t uncommon to see a would-be yogi pausing in their stretch to pick up a dog or accept puppy kisses sent their way. Puppy Yoga is not intended to be a strictly-business yoga class. In fact, Mueller hopes that it may be more approachable than a studio.
“I was just looking for different ways to bring yoga to the community,” Mueller said. “It’s a great way for people to feel a bit more comfortable in a yoga class if you aren’t comfortable going to a studio. They’ll also bring their boyfriends or husbands who never agreed to do yoga but they will if it involves puppies.”
Puppy Yoga is in its third year of operation. Every dollar made goes to Bounce Animal Rescue, a local rescue organization focusing on getting animals out of kill shelters where they are under threat of euthanization.
We bring in animals from high-kill shelters down south or in areas of need,” said Anneliese Clark, executive director at Bounce. “And we essentially put them in our foster homes, get them all vetted and up for adoption.”
High-kill shelters will euthanize animals to make room for more incoming animals. Bounce is an all-foster rescue, meaning that every animal is put into the homes of their volunteers until they are adopted.
“I really like seeing the connections that we foster here,” Mueller said. “I like seeing people who start volunteering with Bounce, who start to make that connection and make it part of their lifestyle. Also, seeing the people who do end up adopting one . . . It’s really cool to see when somebody finds the right puppy for them.”
According to Mueller, human socialization is essential to the puppies’ development.
“(These puppies) don’t have a lot of human interaction before this aside from their fosters,” Mueller said. “It’s great for the rescue to get their name out there and get the dogs socialized. It’s a great way for them to get to know and trust people.”
Clark is impressed with Mueller’s leadership capabilities.
“(Mueller) is honestly the brainchild behind it all,” Clark said. “We’re just very lucky to benefit from her creativity.”
The class is once a month at Maxline Brewing, a Fort Collins brewery. The business opens early to accommodate the session. It also allows patrons to stay late to do a meet-and-greet with the puppies after yoga. The first beer is free for anybody over 21 who has signed up for the event, incentivizing sticking around if the puppies didn’t provide enough motivation.
“(These puppies) don’t have a lot of human interaction before this aside from their fosters. It’s great for the rescue to get their name out there and get the dogs socialized. It’s a great way for them to get to know and trust people.”-Kaitlin Mueller, yoga instructor at Om Kai Yoga.
re, and it’s worked out really well,” Mueller said. “They have a great space for it, and they have a community that loves dogs.”
The last class which was held Feb. 10, involved six puppies from the same litter and 20 participants. Striking the right balance is crucial to the event’s success.
“We want to make sure that the puppies to people ratio is good so that people feel like they got enough time with the puppies,” Mueller said. “(…) We also try to limit the class just so that the puppies are comfortable. We don’t want to overwhelm them just because it’s their first social experience.”
The popularity of the class is a double-edged sword. Anybody who wants in has to jump on the opportunity as soon as it arises or they risk missing out. Tickets are typically on sale a month before the class actually occurs.
“I have a lot of repeat customers,” Mueller said, “Which makes it a little hard for newer people to get into the classes because the classes sometimes sell out within the hour. I’ve had classes sell out within five minutes before. You basically have to have a ticket within 24 hours.”
Graham Shapley can be reached at email@example.com and on Twitter @shapleygraham.