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Calgary-area animal sanctuary offers hog-wild yoga class

Alberta Yogis can enjoy backbends with belly rubs as practicing potbelly pigs show off paddock in Robin's Refuge.

The Balance with Billy yoga fundraiser incorporates pigs like Billy, Marvin and George in a guided paddock practice.

Contributed / Robin's Refuge

The Balance with Billy yoga fundraiser incorporates pigs like Billy, Marvin and George in a guided paddock practice.

Step aside goats, nama-roll in the hay and practise that downward hog.

As it turns out, finding your zen with farm animals isn't just a thing of cute online videos, it's something you can do.

Robin's Refuge took on the adorable trend to raise cash for their 22 life-long residents and help bring awareness to a fad that they feel glorifies working animals, instead of supporting surviving sows of abuse.

"A lot of those novelty yoga classes that involve baby goats or baby pigs, other types of farm animals, often times those animals are purposefully brought in for those events and will later return to the agriculture industry to be used," said founder Julia Robin. "In order to offer a more humane and ethical option, this was a great opportunity for the sanctuary to put on a fundraiser."

In the great outdoors, you could practise with six of the sanctuary's pot belly pigs in their paddock; a grassy field where the full-grown pigs are free to roam. After yoga, there will be a tour of the sanctuary so those attending can learn more about the animals that call the refuge home.

The classes will be led by Kate Spears who was first introduced to the sanctuary through her mother, who was performing Reiki on the horses.

"I love the animals and atmosphere at the sanctuary and am excited to be visiting so frequently to teach these yoga classes," Spears said. "The pigs all have unique personalities, and concentrating on the yoga postures while so much cuteness is around may be challenging, but will add some lightness and fun I think everyone needs once in awhile."

Spears said practising yoga with the big animals around can be an amazing experience, as they have a kind presence.

But for those nervous to roll around with the fully-grown piglets there will be volunteers handy to guide the more social sows away from anyone who is uncomfortable. Robin said some of the more interactive pigs may approach practice looking for a belly rub or a snout kiss.

"The animals are free to choose exactly how close they would like to get to people," Robin said. "The pigs actually do quite a few moves that emulate classic yoga poses, very much like the downward dog, or the downward hog as we like to call it, where Billy, in particular, will often times get on his knees to graze close to the grass."

She said some of the pigs are so agile they can get on their hind legs and emulate more of a standing pose, they're so clever sometimes they try to replicate what people are doing.

"Pigs are very silly, emotional and expressive creatures, so we find they're really able to play into the energy," she said.

All the proceeds for the $20 class, beginning Sunday, August 13 at 11 a.m. are going toward the sanctuary.

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