Downward Elephant

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It’s not just humans that practice Downward Dog and other yoga poses.

These days elephants at Houston Zoo in Texas are also taking up yoga to improve their well-being, the Washington Post reported.

That’s because living in captivity is not ideal for the pachyderms. In fact, scientists have cautioned that a lack of exercise causes zoo elephants to live shorter lives than those in the wild.

Because yoga can boost an older person’s longevity, Kristin Windle, the zoo’s elephant supervisor, believes that a few minutes of stretching could do the same for the captive creatures.

She and her colleagues have been teaching yoga classes to the big mammals when they turn four months old. At first, they let the elephants play with a tennis ball attached to a broom handle and then encourage the animals to move the body parts they touch with the stick.

For every move they perform, the trainers hand the elephants a special treat, such as a banana, wheat bread or a cantaloupe.

Each session lasts between 30 seconds to five minutes and there are at least three sessions per day. Over time, the elephants practice more advanced poses, including a downward-dog-like pose with their four feet on the ground and their backs arched.

Windle noted that these exercises allow the keepers to keep an eye on their well-being, but also bond with the elephants.

“They’re pretty amazing,” she added. “It’s pretty awesome to be able to build trust and build relationships with these guys.”

Elephant yoga has also been reported in other parts of the United States and abroad.

In Australia, Perth Zoo caught flak for allegedly abusing the animals by involving them in a yoga class with paying visitors, Sky News noted.

Zoo officials denied the accusations, saying that the elephants were not forced “to do anything that they weren’t capable of doing and that they don’t enjoy.”

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