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Piglets and poses: Introducing the newest yoga trend taking Spencer by storm

SPENCER ― It's no secret that spending time with animals holds a multitude of benefits.

According to the American Heart Association, having a pet has shown to raise fitness levels, help lower stress, cholesterol and blood pressure, all while aiding depression and boosting serotonin levels. There's a reason dogs are known as man's best friend.

Now, animals are popping up on yoga mats, both near and far, to help participants unwind, relax and, of course, get the chance to take a selfie.

A few years ago, it was goat yoga that caught the attention of the Worcester area. In fact, the Worcester Common Oval even hosted a class in 2018. This year, the goats have some competition: piglets.

"We're in this world that's just 'Go, go, go!' Just being around these baby animals forces you to be present, in the moment," said Ashley Bousquet, owner of Beyond Yoga & Wellness at 15 Oak Lane in Spencer. "After all, the benefits of being around animals are endless."

Bousquet launched Beyond Yoga & Wellness in January, but has been teaching yoga locally for several years, including a series at Oakham Brewery that includes a yoga class and a drink from the bar.

An animal lover herself, Bousquet owns a number of reptiles, including a 23-year-old iguana, Neo; a 13-year-old chuckwalla, Zelda; and a crested gecko, Jade. In the past she's hosted goat yoga, but this year, she decided to try something new and is hosting piglet yoga classes around Central Massachusetts.

"As soon as I release a class, I sell out within a single day," she said. "And that is upwards of a hundred reservations in a single day, and then there's the waitlist."

The best way to book a spot is to find Bousquet on Facebook or email her directly:

More than 30 people arrived Tuesday afternoon for an outdoor vinyasa class, situated in Bousquet's backyard next to Thompson Pond. Attendees came from across the state, from Ludlow to Lexington.

Joining the yogis were three five-week-old piglets – Charlotte, Wilbur and Blue – as well as Munchie the goat and a few bunnies from Mable's Acres in North Brookfield.

"I drove here from Charlemont," said Chrystal Jarvenpaa. "I'm absolutely obsessed with pigs."

Jarvenpaa works as a hairdresser. She said it was a client who saw the piglet class being offered and sent it to her. She currently owns two pot-bellied pigs named Drake and Dustin.

"I'm definitely going to have to wash my hands and change my clothes before going home to those two; they'll be jealous," she said.

It was the first time Jarvenpaa had taken a yoga class. She said she wouldn't hesitate to do it again, despite the 90-minute drive.

It was also the first time taking a class for Janna Brown, Jill Carra and James Martin, who work for the Foundation for TJO Animals, a nonprofit organization "committed to the health and welfare of animals." The group was there for "team building Tuesdays," a new initiative created by Brown to help bond with her co-workers.

"I thought this would be a really great thing to do as a group," Brown said while looking at Carra and Martin. "Plus we work for a nonprofit that helps raise funds to help animals, so this kind of thing is right up our alley."

"And it is pretty fun to look down and see a pig," said Martin with a chuckle.

Aside from the pink oinking distractions and endless selfies being taken, a lot of yoga does actually take place.

"The class is what you make it," Bousquet told the group ahead of the class. "You can do the poses or simply get up and play with the pigs."

And play the group did.


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