Elephants are one of the holiest animals in Hinduism. Also, yoga was invented in India.
Is it any surprise then that elephants really like doing yoga? Check out this picture for example—the world’s largest and heaviest land animal doing a headstand. Can you do a headstand?
At the Houston Zoo, elephants participate in a static or slow-motion stretching practice much like yoga for between 30 seconds and 5 minutes a day to help them strengthen muscle groups while stimulating their brains and bodies.
During their yoga, the zoo’s elephant keepers are able to get a full look at their entire bodies, from trunk to tail, as well as check on their range of motion. If anything seems off, they’ll call over one of the five staff veterinarians for a check-up. To help keep them motivated to move, the elephants are rewarded with special treats like whole wheat bread, cantaloupe, raisins, or bananas, on top of their regular diet of roughage.
Tess the nearly 40-year-old mother of four and grandmother of one, pictured here standing on her head, keeps limber with the most number of moves of any of the herd. Methai, a 54-year-old matriarch, takes things a bit easier.
“Cultivating strong, positive relationships with our elephants is critical to providing them with the best healthcare to ensure their well-being is put first,” said Kristin Windle, Houston Zoo elephant supervisor.
“The elephant yoga stretching sessions allow us to build that relationship using positive reinforcement to increase their range of motion and get eyes on their skin, feet, and inside their mouths. We can learn a lot about our elephants in these important sessions.”
The more intelligent an animal is, the more attention they need when kept at zoos. These are Asian elephants, which are believed to be more sensitive and generally intelligent than African bush elephants.
As any yoga practitioners reading will know, yoga, which means unity, isn’t just a way to limber up but is also extremely beneficial for cognitive exertions, whether academic or emotional.