A flexible young woman is taking her love of yoga to the next level — by doing it with endangered animals.
When Miki Ash, a spiritual coach and globe-hopping master yogi, was given the opportunity recently to apply her meditative yoga skills in a way that would raise awareness for endangered wildlife, she jumped at the chance.
Although Ash typically teaches two-legged creatures, for this photoshoot she showcased her stretching skills with a sizeable snake, a prickly porcupine, and an enormous lizard.
‘Animals are historically woven into yoga,’ Ash said. ‘Many of the ancient yogis saw animals as teachers which is why so many poses or asanas (the Sanskrit word for postures) are named after animals, like lizards and snakes.’
She recently got the chance to do yoga with animals at Wildlife Learning Center in Sylmar, California, posing with them inside their enclosures.
The Wildlife Learning Center has lots of animals, including sloths — which inspired them to introduce the idea of Sloth Yoga.
WLC offers Sloth Yoga every other month for $60 (approximately £50) per guest — and those who participate get to snap pictures with a sloth named Sid.
‘We thought Sloth Yoga could be a fun, new way to educate people and talk about rainforest conservation,’ said Paul Hahn, co-founder of the center.
‘We have found that people are most inspired to make changes in their life regarding conservation when they meet an animal ambassador,’ said Hahn.
‘People seem to really love it. We try to have a sloth yoga event every couple of months.
‘One disadvantage of higher functioning animals, like people, is that many of us have the “luxury” of having our basic needs met so there is space in our brains for wonderful things and clutter,’ Hahn added.
‘Wild animals are constantly accessing their surroundings and feeling without the multitude of distractions of planning for the future or processing the past. Perfect for the yoga mindset of being present.’
While Ash poses with several animals, the center only actually offers Sloth Yoga. But they hope that Ash’s photoshoot brings attention to endangered animals cared for there.
The WLC is a sanctuary for animals unable to return to nature that was founded 20 years ago by Hahn and his partner, fellow biologist David Ryherd. The injured and impaired are cared for and live their days leisurely in an environment that mirrors their natural habitat.
‘If you can imagine caring for over one hundred children every day and one of them is visiting the doctor, many have special needs, they all need a lot of love,’ Hahn said.
‘There is a lot of poop involved. There is a lot of drama. Fundraising for daily care is the biggest challenge. Our staff does it because they absolutely love it.’
The resident greeters are a raucous gang of squirrel monkeys yodeling and cackling and flinging feces across their interchange of branches and vines. There are also giraffes, owls, snakes, and reptiles.
Ash posed with several different species, including a raccoon, a snake, a tortoise, and owl, and a porcupine.
‘I enjoyed the whole experience but I think the sloth best represents the slow and steady pace of the yogi,’ she said.
‘I am sort of hanging from one’s own vine, the foot comes incrementally closer to the head day by day. Kind of like the Sid the Sloth who takes a week to digest one leaf.’