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I did downward dogs with actual puppies and (obviously) loved it

TextIris Rosindo-Chalangeas

Yogapaws is the UK’s first yoga studio that comes with... DOGS

First, a disclaimer: I ADORE PUPPIES. Unlike cats, they’re responsive, energetic, and generally akin to me and my own amicable spasticity. So this review will be relatively biased and, in part, homage to my own pup called Baba that I miss dearly (FYI he’s not dead, he lives in Portugal with my grandparents and is, as we speak, no doubt being showered in love and home-cooked meals). That being said, please enjoy my very fair and neutral review of Yogapaws, London’s best yoga class that provides puppy companions to work out alongside, as they mainly roll around and nibble your hair. 

How did Yogapaws come to be, you ask? It all started way back in November 2019. The inspiration came after a vigorous and transcending Goat yoga class the two founders took in LA. During this class, they realised the potential that working out with animals offered for an emotionally gratifying experience. They did however also find the goats to be slightly too feral at times, on account of the fact that several tried to climb yogis like trees. They came to the natural conclusion: yes to animals and yoga. No to goats and yoga. Yes to beautiful puppies and yoga – making them one the first to cultivate this approach to exercise.

I found Yogapaws via a sponsored post on Instagram and began planning how to infiltrate this puppy haven straight away. On D-day, a particularly chilly Saturday morning, I began to psych myself out for what might be in store. What kind of puppies will they be? How many will there be? Will they like me? Will I kick one accidentally in the face after doing a downward dog? Despite this, I manage to make my way in a pretty sane manner to Angel, in North London, where the yoga session was taking place with my equally delirious partner in crime (and Dazed Beauty’s editor) Nellie Eden, who also happens to be a devout cat person. I was sure to don my cutest yoga gear as I have only done yoga one other time before this: DO.OMYOGA (where doom metal echoes in the background), a pretty stark contrast to this class. I’m prepared to convince Nellie that doggos are the superior species, by smothering her in pups.

As I waited behind the studio door, my mind started to wonder. Pugs, Pomeranians... Greyhounds? The breed of puppy is kept secret until the day of the class and changes from class to class. As we finally enter the room, the curtain is lifted… CHOCOLATE LABRADORS! Which in my eyes, are the epitome of what many would consider an “adorable dog” (just to reiterate, all puppies are created equal, all I’m saying is that if you google “cute puppy” you can’t deny that the page is predominantly filled with labs or Pomeranians, and the algorithm doesn’t lie). 

Once I’d made my way to my mat, I decided to play the long game and wait for a pup to naturally approach my side. While the American Educational Research Association has proven puppies promote serenity and stress relief, what makes Yogapaws great is that they take this information and provide a modern practical way of reaping its benefits without the implications of owning a dog full time, which seems to be the main determining factor in young urban professionals living pup-less. Even those first few moments were enough to shed away the cumulative stress I’d endured this past month, and made me feel at peace with the pure joy of loving something and caring for it. Not to make things too existential, but there is something to be said about caring for innocent young furry beings, as it puts your place in the world and its meaning into perspective, which goes hand-in-hand with the accompanying yoga class.

With that, I, like many others, wanted to understand the ethics of the practice. Humans want affection and mental stability, puppies give affection, yoga gives mental stability, stamina and voila, right? Well yes, and classes are efficiently planned out to benefit the pups as much as the yogis. The yoga is mainly floor-based to ensure the safety of the puppies, who are all between eight and 16 weeks old, and that everyone gets to interact with them. This also serves as a means of socialising young pups before they head to their forever home, which in many cases, is as a therapy dog for people in need. Its obvious psychological benefits are only amplified by the toning and invigorating effect of the yoga. By merging these facets together, puppy yoga provides optimum relaxation and spiritual strengthening via this emotional connection and still helps cultivate those rock hard abs you’ve been working on for 2020’s hot girl summer.

“I loved observing different people’s reactions to the class. Some were loving but still focused on the yoga to some degree, while another (precisely one lady), sat down for the entirety of the class as a pup dozed off in her lap, and took a million selfies with it”

Once I’d gotten over my initial delirium, I composed myself and began to listen to the yoga instructor. In addition to this, while some of you might think that you can just go around snatching at the puppies as you please, that isn’t the case, so if they wish to rest, you’re encouraged to leave them alone and partake in the yoga portion of the experience.

To my surprise, the yoga class was pretty thorough and did involve a certain amount of effort. While I could somewhat keep up at the start, core exercises were relatively intense and more importantly demanded a fair share of concentration or zen, which I obviously did not have. It was slightly harder to lose yourself in the practice due to puppies crawling all over you. But seeing as the yoga was relatively chilled, it made following a communal groove a tad easier.

I loved observing different people’s reactions to the class. Some were loving but still focused on the yoga to some degree, while another (precisely one lady), sat down for the entirety of the class as a pup dozed off in her lap, and took a million selfies with it. Also, just in case you started to feel paranoid, the dogs didn’t love you enough, the event coordinators were there to hand you one mid lotus position.

Once the yoga class had finished, we were left to play with these bundles of joy for another 20 minutes. I also got a moment to chat to the founders of the company, who enlightened me about their hopes and dreams for the future of Yogapaws, which include partnering up with charities and puppy shelters. Most recently they have fundraised for Battersea Dogs and Cats Home via an initiative where the yogis donated money, which was then doubled by the founders at the end of each day! 

I wanted to know what drew the attendees. Some participants said they were simply puppy fanatics, while others resonated with my own existential perspective and explained the experience offers a pure form of love and affection, which they feel they lack living in such a big city. Some had even pre-booked multiple classes for themselves, coming in at £35 a pop, which explains why the tickets sell out in minutes (one minute and six seconds to be precise). 

“Among the hustle and bustle of a city like London, it can be hard to find pure organic interactions like these, making Yogapaws success all the more resonant. Yogapaws is worth every penny and delivers emotionally, physically, and spiritually”

As our time with the pups came to an end, it was hard to say goodbye, even though I had been dousing myself in puppy love for a good hour (including the designated 20 minutes of puppy playtime), but they just like us, they were also pretty exhausted. I left the experience feeling energised and optimistic. It shifted my whole way of thinking that day and humbled me (in a positive way) as to just how small we are in this vast universe. 

Among the hustle and bustle of a city like London, it can be hard to find pure organic interactions like these, making Yogapaws success all the more resonant. When living such a high-paced life, it is essential to have moments that ground you and bring you back to the more primal feelings of being human, regardless of how that may be done. In my opinion, Yogapaws is worth every penny and delivers emotionally, physically, and spiritually.

For your chance to attend a puppy yoga class courtesy of Yogapaws, keep an eye on its Instagram account – spaces run out fast! 

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