GREEN BAY, Wis. — It’s one thing to roll out your mat and do Downward Dog. It’s another to pull off the iconic yoga posture with actual doggies down at your feet.
One stretches your spine. The other tickles your toes. Together, it’s called puppy yoga, and it’s as adorable as it sounds.
You’ve heard of yoga with goats? Same concept, but with more tail wagging, clumsier paws and the occasional squeaker toy, the Green Bay Press-Gazette reported .
Gather on Broadway and Lucky 7 Dog Rescue hosted their first Yoga with Puppies class in downtown Green Bay, a joint fundraiser that sold out faster than you can say Adho Mukha Svanasana (the proper name for Downward Dog).
Fifty human participants followed along as Molly McCain of Jenstar Yoga & Dance LLC in De Pere calmly guided them through a beginner’s class of how to slow down their breaths, let their day go, plant their hands, draw their belly back and reach for the sky.
The 13 canine participants, however, were having none of that following-instructions stuff. They were there for one reason and one reason only: to play.
The pups were allowed to roam freely, kind of “Who Let the Dogs Out” style. They rubbed shoulders as they mingled from mat to mat, chased each other between outstretched legs, ran around in circles, licked faces conveniently positioned at eye level and got into comical wrestling matches at the instructor’s feet.
Whenever there was a puppy traffic jam by a single mat, volunteers were there to keep the puppy love moving around the room.
“The puppies just kind of do their thing,” said Maddy Szymanski, president of Lucky 7, the foster-based Green Bay rescue group she founded in 2015. “They play, they run around, they cuddle, they jump on each other, they interact with the guests, and in the meantime, they just enjoy themselves.”
Their presence means it’s not your typical yoga class. People take timeouts for selfies. There is no shame in plunking down on your mat and petting when everyone else is standing up and stretching. Staying focused on your breathing tends to go out the window when a dog in a sparkly pink sweater comes racing down the row and cracks everyone up.
The dogs — 14 weeks and younger — were all either Lucky 7 dogs up for adoption or recent adoptees whose owners have agreed to bring them to community events to help spread the word about the rescue group.
Janae Mancheski, of Green Bay, was there as a Christmas gift from her mom, Justine Mancheski. It was a chance for some mother-daughter time and some serious puppy cuddling.
“This is probably one of the more distracting times I’ve done yoga, but it was so worth it,” Janae said.
For the puppies, the class is a way to learn to play with other dogs, hear new noises and interact with strangers — all things that help in their socialization, Szymanski said. Jack is in training to be a service dog, for example, and Finley to be an emotional support dog.
Puppy yoga doesn’t just connect mind and body but also people and pets.
“We’re really trying to change the way people view animal welfare,” Szymanski said. “A lot of times people think it’s dogs in kennels that don’t have anywhere to go, and they think of it as being sad and overwhelming. So we’re trying to change the way people think about getting involved in a rescue (to foster or volunteer).”
By the time the hour-long class was over, the two-legged participants felt relaxed, but the four-legged ones were flat-out pooped. A few were conked out on the floor or curled up on laps.
“They tend to only have an hour’s worth of energy,” Szymanski said. “They tucker out quick.”