The DMV has no shortage of unique yoga classes. Goat yoga, puppy yoga, kitten yoga … even yoga with a free beer at the end of class (how’s that for a peaceful workout?).
But after a spark of inspiration from a studio in Vancouver, local nonprofit Friends of Rabbits has brought an even more creative class to the region with yet another four-legged friend: bunnies!
Mara Hurwitt, vice president of Friends of Rabbits, saw the opportunity arise for a bunny yoga class from a volunteer who struck up a conversation with her weekly yoga teachers. They knew it would be a great fundraiser, but hosting at most locations wasn’t exactly going to be easy with cotton-tailed participants.
“I thought, well that’s a great idea, but we can’t exactly do it in my living room,” says Hurwitt. “And then, while [the volunteer] was sitting in my house discussing it and petting one of my bunnies, the lightbulb went off.”
A local holistic practitioner, Jordan Kocen, had a 40-by-40-foot room in the Veterinary Holistic Center in Springfield, which was primarily used as a dog agility training center, with an open space and padded floors. He agreed to let Friends of Rabbits use the space for free, and the two local instructors who helped initiate the idea were eager to hop on board.
“We had a space, we had instructors and we always have rabbits,” says Hurwitt. “So, we advertised it and we sold out our first class in under a week, almost three or four days.”
The first class was held back in 2018, and around 25 locally adopted bunnies and foster bunnies were in attendance. Hurwitt says about half of the class were “bunny people” (known as volunteers or members of the organization), and the other half were local residents looking for a unique experience. The organization even had “rabbit wranglers” armed with spray bottles for little messes; ready to separate bunnies if things got feisty between them.
The class has since expanded to be held twice a year at two different locations, including Veterinary Holistic Center in Springfield and Rise Well-Being Center in Reston, and is making its 2020 debut on Saturday, March 28, and another on Saturday, May 16. The classes sell out each time, but there are still a few spots open in both for interested attendees.
“At some of the classes now, we’ve even had adoptions,” says Hurwitt, which wasn’t the original goal of the class. “We don’t do same-day adoptions, but we have had people who came and spent time with rabbits and said, ‘Hey, you know what? This would be great.’ and then put in applications.”
So, what’s the draw of attending a class with the floppy-eared, happily hopping creatures? Hurwitt says it’s less about actually completing the yoga class, and more about the peaceful experience of it all.
“Some people end up sitting through the entire class just petting the bunnies,” she says. “Especially if one of the rabbits decides to perch on the mat.”
Although there haven’t been specific research studies to prove that yoga with animals directly correlates with better health (although extensive studies have proven the health benefits of the physical and mental practice of yoga), other studies have shown that the act of petting an animal can drastically reduce stress levels in as little as 15 minutes.
If you’re looking for a way to stretch off extra stress and get to interact with all types of bunnies in a calm and peaceful setting, this is your chance. Plus, you’ll be bettering a local nonprofit and the health of dozens of bunnies for months to come.
“This has become our biggest fundraiser of the year,” says Hurwitt. “We exist on donations, and there aren’t that many grants out there for rabbit rescues.”
Get to stretching, maybe even try sansangasana (rabbit pose), or chill out in your final resting pose with a bunny by your side. // Rise Well-Being Center: 11130 Sunrise Valley Drive, Reston; $25, for all-levels ages 8 years and older
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