By Marco Santana
All Katie Donzanti and the yoga class at her Curry Ford Road studio wanted to do was downward dog. Instead, they got a face full of dog slobber and ear nibbles.
Peaceful Peacock Orlando, a 3-month-old yoga studio, brought in eight rambunctious young pups to mix and mingle with a yoga class recently.
The result was a sometimes chaotic, often adorable, morning that had even the most serious yoga student in the class cracking a wide smile.
“This is the kind of stuff that keeps my heart beating,” said Donzanti, 37, a former marketing director at Harley Davidson. “Anything that allows us to give back.”
Poses for Pups, an awareness event meant to showcase the adoptable puppies, is the first in what Donzanti hopes is a frequent effort for her studio.
She wants to partner with rescue organizations and feature other animals that need rescuing, she said.
“It’s been a dream of mine to open a yoga studio and contribute to this community,” Donzanti said.
Estimates say that nearly 16 million people in the U.S. alone practice yoga.
In recent years, that growth has spurred the creation of new, unorthodox types of yoga, including yoga among goats, using hula hoops and with dogs trotting around.
“It’s just something else to look at,” said Orlando resident Matt Spurlock, who attended the class. “Anything they can do to bring more enjoyment is a good thing. When you get an occasional sniff and kiss, you enjoy it even more.”
Lizzie Fredrick had the perhaps unenviable task of keeping the class moving along as the puppies did what they could to disrupt her.
That sometimes meant puppies running through the legs of someone in the class. Other times, well, it meant the class’s leaders having to clean up after a puppy accident.
She said adding foreign elements to a class helps grow yoga’s exposure.
“This kind of addition makes yoga more accessible,” she said. “It could invite people to yoga that may not necessarily have given it a chance otherwise.”
The hour-long session drew between 35 and 40 people, a typical turnout for a special event at the studio.
The benefits are not only to the people who get to play with the dogs at a dog yoga event, said Judy Sarullo, who has run Pet Rescue by Judy in Sanford for 29 years.
“It gets the dogs socialization skills, too,” she said.
The yoga session had its light moments.
At least two of the puppies seemed to enjoy climbing on the students’ backs. One had to be given a time out because he was a little bit too jazzed up.
Still, one of the core messages of the event was serious.
Getting a dog “is like having a newborn,” said Tracy Cooksey, an Orlando-based dog trainer at the event. “If you’re going to get a puppy, you better make sure you are set up. You need to understand that you won’t get much sleep at first.”