Do you ever feel like something is missing from your yoga class? What if we told you there are classes where you can practice in a room full of adorable, fuzzy bunny rabbits? We guarantee that they’ll have you hopping onto your yoga mat quicker than you can say Bugs Bunny.
These yoga classes—dubbed as “bunny yoga”—thankfully do exist, and are held once a month at the Best Friends Visitor Center in downtown Kanab, Utah—just 5 miles from the Best Friends Animal Sanctuary in southern Utah.
“These classes are very popular,” says Carrie Smith, the visitor center manager. “It’s not unusual for someone to stop in the middle of a pose to kneel down and play with a bunny rabbit.” Smith says people love coming to the class, and feel at ease while surrounded by the animals. “No one is intimidated at all [to come to the class], because instead of looking at each other, people are concentrated on the animals,” she says.
But the class isn’t all about getting Zen in a room full of soft, docile creatures. Carrie and her team place a strong emphasis on the educational aspect of the event. “The purpose of the class is to create an education opportunity and to act as a conversation starter,” says Smith.
Smith will spend about 5 minutes before every class teaching the attendees about rabbit care and the current state of the abandoned bunny population. “There is a misconception about bunnies,” Smith says. “People are under the impression that bunnies make good starter pets for kids,” when, according to Smith, this is far from the case.
“There are several things people are unaware of when they buy a bunny as a gift,” says Smith. Not many people know that bunnies can live up to 12 years, they need wide spaces to roam about in, and don’t like to be picked up. “They [also] don’t make great pets for kids,” she says. Bunnies are also social creatures, and prefer to live with another bunny.
Because of the typical unrealistic expectations people have when it comes to caring for a bunny, many owners decide to abandon their rabbits once the care becomes too much of a burden. In these cases, shelters will take in these rabbits in hopes of finding them a forever home. “People assume shelters are for dogs and cats, and don’t realize there are other species in the shelters,” Smith says.
In 2016, Utah experienced an increase in the number of abandoned pet rabbits throughout the community. “We noticed we had an influx of bunnies in the area dumped in the city park, or domesticated bunnies out loose,” Smith says. “We knew we had an issue.”
Inspired by talks on the Internet about yoga classes with bunnies, Smith decided to host a bunny yoga class at the center. The first class was held Easter weekend, and was a great success. They adopted out four bunnies to a family who was in attendance that day.
Even if the event doesn’t lead to direct adoptions, Smith and her team are happy to socialize the bunnies and get them accustomed to being around people. “The first time they come to class, they’re a little nervous,” Smith says. The team will even bring a box the bunnies can hide in if they become too scared. Over time, she explains, the bunnies become more outgoing and friendly with the guests.
Besides increasing bunny adoptions, the goal of bunny yoga and the other fun events at the visitor center is to increase people’s awareness of the Best Friends Animal Sanctuary just 5 miles down the road. The visitor center is downtown, smack dab in the middle of the “mighty five” national parks, making it a perfect location to spark the interest of tourists visiting the area. The educational visitor center began hosting interactive, pet-friendly events to get people excited about what they had to offer. “We wanted to create a space that people could hang out and feel comfortable in,” says Smith.
If you are interested in learning more about Best Friends Animal Sanctuary, or their upcoming events, you can visit bestfriends.org/sanctuary.