Chennai-based Subhashree Madhavan, Sinduja Krishnakumar, and Swathi Renugopal, founders of Pawga. (Photo by arrangement)
It’s time to roll out the mats, fetch the treats, and embark on a journey of zen and zaniness to explore the world of puppy yoga. As humans mastered the downward-facing dog asana, it was only a matter of time before their furry companions decided to jump in on the wellness wagon.
Salute the sun, sniff the breeze
While you’re stretching your hamstrings, your furry friend might be busy perfecting the "upward bark" pose as a meditational mutt. After all, it’s about forming an unbreakable bond when you hold your pup in a soothing embrace, feeling their heartbeat sync with yours and all the stress leaving your mind. When Chennai-based Subhashree Madhavan, Sinduja Krishnakumar, and Swathi Renugopal, founders of Pawga, started India’s first pet yoga experience for animal welfare, they were sure it would lead to something big. With a growing community of 45,000 people in cities like Hyderabad, Bengaluru, and Chennai, the founders share their journey and inform, "The three of us have been friends since college and we worked in multiple shelters across the world."
In 2019, Swathi came across goat yoga and sparked the idea of why not puppy yoga. It has not been done in India, and at that point, it was a Western concept. We weren’t sure if India would be ready to experiment, but we understood that puppy yoga with shelter pets could create a massive change in the lives of the animals. Especially, the way shelter pets or indie breeds in India are viewed would be changed."
At Pawga, all the puppies are from the shelters and are up for adoption and fostering programs. A portion of the proceeds also goes towards animal welfare, mention Subhashree and Sinduja. They say, "Puppy yoga is one-of-a-kind activity that can only be experienced and not explained. We practice beginner-friendly yoga as puppies run around us, and there is no pressure on the puppies or the humans. Anyone of all age groups and any fitness level is welcome. The puppies are free to roam around, pull someone's socks, or cuddle up with someone and fall asleep. We stick to the core values of yoga and ask people to go with the flow. Distractions are part of any practice, except at here they would come with wagging tails and wet snouts."
The art of ‘Paws-itive’ affirmations
The idea of merging puppies with yoga is simply a recipe for joy. Puppies possess an innate ability to radiate positivity and invoke feelings of happiness and comfort. This, combined with the stress-relieving benefits of yoga, creates a harmonious and unique experience for participants. For Delhi-based Gunveet Singh and Riya Bedi, founders of Paws & Poses, the inception of puppy yoga was a heartwarming experience inspired by their time in Vancouver. Guvneet says, "While attending a puppy yoga session in Vancouver, my partner Riya discovered an extraordinary solace that emanated from the combination of yoga and the companionship of adorable puppies. She shared her experience with me, igniting the spark for Paws and Poses in New Delhi. The response surpassed our expectations; in less than three months, we’ve orchestrated over 50 successful sessions. Our participants find solace and a sense of connection as they practice yoga amidst the playful energy of puppies. The puppies’ presence adds an element of lightness and spontaneity to the practice, making it not only beneficial for physical health but also for mental well-being. We are proud to play a role in supporting animal welfare organizations as well. A fixed portion of all our ticket sales is pledged to the Shvan Foundation, an organization that tirelessly cares for 400 abandoned and rescued dogs. In addition, our efforts have resulted in finding forever homes for 8 indie puppies, ensuring they have a loving and secure future."
One stretch and wag at a time:
The best thing about puppy yoga is that it falls in the sweet spot between humans and cuddly canines. By spending time with puppies, humans produce happy hormones in their brains that reduce stress. For puppies, the sessions can provide socialization and exposure to different environments, contributing to their overall development. It also helps shelter pets, who are prone to early-stage depression in some cases, by interacting with humans, highlights Sushank Tomar, founder of Citizens for Animal Protection Foundation based in Thane. He says, "We are a three-year-old animal welfare organization in Maharashtra, and we have around 80 to 90 puppies in our shelters that are rescued from the street. We have conducted puppy yoga to raise awareness around stray pups and urge them to adopt or participate in foster care. The sessions usually help in getting these little puppies rehabilitated in their forever homes. It is scientifically proven that people who interact with animals regularly have less stress, and with puppy yoga and painting sessions, a lot of youngsters, kids, and even adults have felt a change in mental health. Shelter puppies bring unconditional joy and create a positive environment, and when they interact with humans it also helps them psychologically."
In a world where stress and responsibilities often outweigh the importance of play and presence, doga comes as a breath of fresh air – or, more accurately, as a slobbery lick on the cheek. While the advantages are clear, it's important to maintain a balanced and controlled environment. Puppies need to be handled gently, to ensure their safety and comfort. So, next time you roll out your yoga mat, don’t be surprised if your furry friend decides to roll out beside you, ready to strike a pose and remind you that life is meant to be enjoyed.