Reindeer Yoga: Inspired by reindeer’s itchy antler ‘yoga’

FAIRBANKS, Alaska. (KTVF) On Wednesday night, people gathered at Running Reindeer Ranch for a yoga class with reindeer. In this unique class, reindeer are in a pen with the participants during the class.

A reindeer scratching their antlers during a Reindeer Yoga class. (Sara Tewksbury/KTVF)

Jane Atkinson, owner of Running Reindeer Ranch, said the reindeer themselves doing ‘yoga’ poses inspired the idea for Reindeer Yoga. “I’ve always watched these guys in the summer months. Their antlers are itchy as they’re growing, [and] I’ve always watched them do these fantastic yoga moves, moving their feet up to scratch their antlers, back and forth and it’s just pretty fun. So I thought ‘gosh we should do reindeer yoga, I think that would be really neat,’” said Atkinson.

She says that last summer they had a staff member who was also a yoga instructor so they started the class back then. “We just thought we would see how it goes, and it was just more fun than we thought so we’re continuing it this year,” said Atkinson.

Over the past few years, taking yoga classes with animals has become popular with goats, dogs, and even alpacas; but according to Atkinson, they are unique in offering yoga with reindeer. “We don’t know anywhere else where you can have yoga in with the reindeer. There are some other places that have reindeer in a pen and yoga separate on the outside, but to our knowledge this is the only place in the world where we do yoga with the reindeer,” said Atkinson.

Atkinson says the reindeer are sensitive to energy and their activity levels change based on those of the participants. “We get down there, and then they’re munching down and they’re exploring the space, they’re checking out yoga mats, they’re checking out people, and they’re hanging out. As the class starts ramping up they’re moving around, they’re chasing each other around, they’re doing reindeer things, and then as the class gears up and starts slowing down they have a tendency to slow down... and by Shavasana most of them are laying down doing their own Shavasana,” said Atkinson.

Atkinson says reindeer yoga also started as a way to socialize their shy calves in a safe environment. “It started as a way to get the calves comfortable. When they are born, they have a flight zone. They are very shy, and we just wanted them to be in a situation close to people -- so it has worked. The calves last year didn’t have a shy bone in their body, but the ones this year [were] all born shy again and they’re getting calm around people,” said Atkinson.

She says it enhances the yoga class experience being outside with the reindeer in the boreal forest. “What we have discovered is that people will come because of the novelty, but they stay because it’s a really great yoga session. It’s not just a novel thing, the yoga itself is really good and we’re outside. It’s a fabulous outside space, to be able to exercise and do your breathing and take care of yourself,” said Atkinson.

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