Fetch & Stretch yoga class is inclusive to canines

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Greg Little
Wednesday, May 31, 2017

JANESVILLE—Can Fido fix your feelings?

Countless studies claim interaction with pets has a calming effect on humans' moods. A few minutes spent petting a pooch can reduce levels of the stress hormone cortisol and boost serotonin—the chemical in your brain that makes you happy.

Wouldn't it make sense, then, that doing yoga with a dog would be the ultimate relaxation technique?

Stefanie Kuerschner thinks so, and as a dog owner and president/CEO of Janesville's True Studio fitness center, she's in a position to test that theory.

Beginning Monday, June 5, Kuerschner and her 10-year-old golden retriever, Ellie, will lead a series of one-hour Fetch & Stretch yoga classes at the off-leash dog area in Janesville's Palmer Park. Classes start at 5:30 p.m.

Cost to participate is $10 per class or $49 for all eight classes. Kuerschner said she plans to donate a portion of money raised to support local pet rescue efforts.

“I practice Karma Yoga, which is a form of yoga that has nothing to do with poses. It's all about charitable acts,” she said.

On her website, TrueStudio.com, Kuerschner explains the philosophy behind Fetch & Stretch.

“Yoga at the dog park is ideal because it allows me to accomplish multiple goals at once,” she wrote. “With a busy job, I often lack the time to tackle everything I set out to do at the start of the day, and it's usually my dog's exercise or mine that gets compromised.

“Fetch & Stretch allows us to practice yoga while my golden retriever enjoys her much-needed social time and burns off some energy running laps around dog park companions.”

While the popularity of programs such as Fetch & Stretch and Goat Yoga has exploded nationwide, Kuerschner's interest sprouted at home.

“I have a studio in my house, and Frank (the family's 11-year-old black Lab) and Ellie loved to go in there with me,” she said. “Whenever I'd put out my yoga mat, one or the other would always end up laying on it.”
When Frank died in late April, Ellie drew closer to Kuerschner.

“The Lab, in some ways, may have overshadowed her personality, but it's neat to see her now in her own light,” Kuerschner said. “She's become my sidekick. I find the more time I spend with her, the calmer she is, and that's part of why I wanted to incorporate this as a bonding idea for pets.”

Mingling with other pups and aspiring yogis is an added bonus.

“If my fitness is social, such as going with a girlfriend or finding a class I enjoy, it tends to increase my enjoyment,” she said. “For Ellie, that's the dog part; she gets to socialize with other dogs. This idea combines the two.”

During classes, participants have the option of having their pets on their mats with them, having them leashed next to them or letting them run free with the others. Classes take place on a cement pad situated far from neighboring roadways, and additional staff will be on hand to make sure all dogs are safe and play nice while their owners work on centering their Chis.

Along with increased flexibility, the major tenets of yoga are focus, discipline and concentration—three things that can be hard to find at the center of an off-leash dog party. So, please understand there will be barking, there will be sniffing and, yes, there might be licking.

But there also will be loving.

“It won't be a traditional class, and disruptions will be a part of it,” Kuerschner said. “But it should be a great balance of doing yoga and spending time with your dog.”

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