1) Are Animal Yoga practices suitable for beginners in yoga?
2) Is Animal Yoga just a gimmick, straying from the original meaning of yoga?
3) Is Animal Yoga a charity? A franchise? A social enterprise?
4) How often do you give funds to the charities?
5) Why have International Animal Rescue and Animal Aid been chosen as the two charities?
6) Is Animal Yoga a new method of yoga?
7) Is every Animal Yoga session a set sequence?
8) What is Animal Yoga’s view on vegetarianism/does one need to be vegetarian to practice Animal Yoga or train as an Animal Yoga teacher?
- Are Animal Yoga practices suitable for beginners in yoga? Animal Yoga sessions touch on philosophically and spiritually advanced matters and physically speaking all the sessions are advanced too – whether that be lingering a lusciously longer time in postures in a restorative Animal Yoga session or experimenting with several challenging physical postures in the standard set-sequence 90-minute class. That said, there is always the invitation to rest in hare pose (shashankasana) whenever your being needs and to rejoin the practice when you can. It is not a fast-moving/flowing physical practice, so you should not feel too overwhelmed or lost at any point. You can rest assured that each class will feature similar postures – and even the same sequence if you attend a set-sequence class – so you shall quickly feel more at ease with your practice and able to delve deeper. If you feel a strong attraction to the practice after some initial reading of the website and are generally in good health (check with your teacher for any specific conditions), then I would most definitely encourage you to give Animal Yoga a try!
- Is Animal Yoga just a gimmick, straying from the original meaning of yoga? We hope not; that is not our intention. Indeed, our intention is to stay very true to the teachings (yamas & niyamas) of yoga. Yoga means union: union with the Ultimate (or another word you may prefer to use for this), which, according to yoga philosophy, is found within ourselves and within all beings on Earth, and thus which unites all creatures. Animal Yoga practices seek to remind us of (or even initiate within us) and enhance this union, this connection, so as to create more compassion in society not only directly through the practitioner but also indirectly through seeing our practice as an embodied prayer and through the belief that we can contribute to shifting the energies amidst us. Animal Yoga is especially based on ahimsa (non-harming to all beings) and daana (charity), which are thought to feed all other teachings, though all yamas and niyamas are relevant and are explored.
- Is Animal Yoga a charity? A franchise? A social enterprise? Animal Yoga is currently run by Treetops-Jen (Jenny Mace, registered IYN yoga teacher) as a social enterprise (other avenues will be explored for the future, for example, functioning as some kind of co-operative). It is not a profit-making initiative; 40% of the funds are donated to two charities and the remainder is reinvested into the initiative. All teachers who complete the Animal Yoga Specialisation Training and then subsequently share Animal Yoga sessions are required to also donate 40% of the funds raised to these two charities (via Animal Yoga for monitoring purposes). They are independent from Animal Yoga though (self-employed). Currently, Animal Yoga is not a registered social enterprise due to the sheer cost implications of incorporating. This would be a potentiality for the future once further growth has taken place (as would other potential routes such as functioning as a co-operative). In the meantime, we still wish to be held accountable and will be producing account records at the end of each tax year in April, which will be able to be downloaded from the website.
- How often do you give funds to the charities? This will be done annually at the end of the tax year in April. It will be made very public and open. It will be possible to download our financial documents for each year from the website. See previous question for further information on this.
- Why have International Animal Rescue and Animal Aid been chosen as the two charities? It’s an age-old quandary as to whether to focus on alleviating suffering that is taking place here and now or whether to focus on preventing such suffering from occurring in the future. Both are very wholesome, worthy and compassionate intentions. The notion of balance is also a key component within yoga. Bearing these factors in mind and heart, we thought it apt to support both endeavours. International Animal Rescue focuses predominantly on alleviating the suffering of animals across the world; Animal Aid focuses on preventing cruelty to and suffering of animals in the future. Both entities have an international outlook too, which recognises the interconnection of us all and the interconnected (at least in terms of technology, travel and trade) world we live in today. They both also work in a pan-species fashion, not favouring any one animal over another, just being guided by the level of suffering to deal with. Whilst in an Animal Yoga session, we recognise the human species as a member of the animal kingdom and we include humans in our intention for our practice (calling in the alleviation of suffering to all animals or one specific animal known to be in need), we feel that, across the world, most work is needed with non-human animals. As a reflection of this, two non-anthropocentric charities have been chosen. This is also a reflection of the level of suffering and cruelty experienced by non-human animals that is caused by humans.
- Is Animal Yoga a new method/type of yoga? It’s definitely not a new method/type of yoga. It is simply a description of what the focus is of the sessions that Animal Yoga teachers hold. Yoga is exceedingly vast, so it can help to specialise. Furthermore, as yoga means different things now to different people and manifests differently, it seems useful to clarify what any one individual’s or organisation’s yoga is all about that they are sharing. Physically speaking, Animal Yoga is predominantly hatha, alignment-based and restorative in nature, with a little bit of flow.
- Is every Animal Yoga session a set sequence? It depends on who your Animal Yoga teacher is and what they feel moved to share (this should be clear from the class/session title and description that the teacher chooses). The predominant practice is a set sequence but there are other more organic sequences that can be shared too. Ultimately, as we are concerning ourselves just with the (at this time, roughly 50) animal-named postures, you can be sure that it shall be some of these postures that will be practiced. There are wonderful advantages to a set-sequence yoga practice including a greater ease of focusing, a growing relationship between you and the postures, the ability to compare the holistic experience from one week to the next and the ability to more easily sense progression.
- What is Animal Yoga’s view on vegetarianism/does one need to be vegetarian in order to practice Animal Yoga or train as an Animal Yoga teacher? We believe abstaining from using animals and their products for dietary purposes (or any other) to be most in alignment with and nourishing of our higher consciousness, especially in regard to mass-produced, intensively farmed animals reared purely for this reason and under very harsh, unnatural and cruel conditions. We also view this as a natural extension of the practice of ahimsa (non-harming), asteya (non-stealing), aparigraha (non-greed) and even brahmacharya (respecting the creative sexual power of all beings, e.g., refraining from meddling in the breeding – and everything involved with this process – of other animals, which is rife in the farming industry and often in very inhumane ways) in addition to other yogic teachings and similar teachings in other belief systems around the world. Through Animal Yoga, we seek to recognise our unity with all beings, thus harming another is also ultimately harming ourselves. We recognise the challenges that arise from being raised in a society and culture that place a large emphasis on the consumption of animal products. We practice compassion, patience and understanding on this path. Acknowledging that you would like to move away from animal products is a great first step and intention is more important than perfection. We see everything in life as a practice; perfection does not exist and every little truly does help. We also acknowledge that in a minority of cases there may be medical complications of opting for such a change in diet. We withhold judgement. Everyone is welcome at Animal Yoga sessions and on the training.
Do please let us know if you have any other questions
There is nothing so small and subtle as the atom nor any element so vast as space. Similarly, there is no quality of soul more subtle than non-violence and no virtue of spirit greater than the reverence for life – Mahavira (6th cent. BCE, “founder” of jainism)