What do yoga and puppies have in common? At PuppYoga, everything.
PuppYoga is a new yoga-meets-animal venture where hour-long yoga sessions are punctuated with laughter, puppies, and, in the case of this reporter, having your shoe untied by 5 French Bulldog puppies.
The idea came about last summer – Goat yoga had already become a popular combination, so why not puppies and yoga? That was the thought that dog trainer Kristin Tarnowski had, and she soon found a partner in yoga instructor Mary Beth Stuver. They ran a trial yoga session in September 2017, and five months later, opened up a home studio at the same property on Stringtown Road where Tarnowski raises and trains diabetic alert service dogs and dogs to assist with a variety of other conditions, including PTSD, autism, and hearing and sight conditions.
Tarnowski, who hails from Gaston, trained guide dogs for the blind for more than a decade before starting her own business, Pieces of the Universe. The puppies at PuppYoga eventually are trained as medical service dogs, and Tarnowski says that the yoga experience helps socialize the puppies, an important process for dogs that will eventually be called on to perform their duties in a variety of circumstances.
Tarnowski partners with Mary Beth Stuver, a yoga instructor and nurse, to hold the classes. While Stuver leads students in poses and exercises, Tarnowski herds the puppies. “They’ll do their thing, run around, play with toys, sometimes they’ll all bunch up on one person. I’ll move them somewhere else.”
Eventually, Tarnowski says, the puppies tire out, and will end up cuddling with the students.
Stuver gauges the experience level of anyone who comes to the studio, and tailors her instruction to the experience and comfort level of her students.
“When people are doing yoga, they’re laughing and having the time of their life,” says Stuver. “They’re coming for the combination of stretching and laughing.”
PuppYoga classes are held weekly on Wednesdays at 9:30 a.m. and Thursdays at 6 p.m. and cost $35, which Tarnowski says goes to help train the puppies. Right now, they have five French Bulldog puppies, with Labrador puppies due in February. To book a class, visit the PuppYoga website.
Sources and more information:
In-person interview with Kristin Tarnowski and Mary Beth Stuver.