Jane Atkinson says by the time the yogis have wound down to Savasana — their final resting pose — so have the reindeer.
Atkinson is the owner of Running Reindeer ranch in Fairbanks, Alaska. Normally, she offers walking tours with the animals, but her business recently expanded to offer reindeer yoga after she noticed they almost seem to practise a type of yoga themselves.
“Their antlers are growing this time of year, they’re sensitive and they’re itchy,” said Atkinson.
“So the reindeer would just get in these poses … they would bring their hind legs up to scratch on their antlers and I said, ‘well, wouldn’t it be fun to do yoga with these guys?”
Atkinson says it works out because the reindeer are very sensitive to the energy around them. When people play music, it changes their demeanour. And when people do downward dog around them?
“They pretty much do what I expected,” she said. “They were curious about things in the beginning. Checking things out.”
But after some time goes by, they fall into the rhythm of the practice and begin to relax with the group, said Atkinson.
She described the space as a temporary fence structure in her yard specifically for yoga, where several reindeer are hanging out as well.
“You’re just welcome to come in and put your mat down,” she said.
“As you walk in, there are the reindeer. They are curious animals by nature … so they often come over and check you out. See what’s going on, sniff at your water bottle, you know, whatever.”
Atkinson didn’t originally intend to open a reindeer ranch — she was on a career track to become a nurse. In order to raise money for school, she started offering walks with her reindeer, which she’d accumulated at her daughter’s behest. Her friends started bringing friends and relatives and the business started to grow.
“They were the ones who said, ‘You guys should put this on TripAdvisor, let other people com and join this,” she said.
“So we did.”
Atkinson said she worked for a nurse for a few years before changing focus to run her farm full time.
She says she has no regrets.
“They’re incredibly loved animals,” she said. “I feel very, very fortunate to have them in my life. They have changed my life in many different ways and I really appreciate and respect them for that.”