SOUTH BEAVER TWP. — A group of yoga devotees unrolled their mats in preparation for a class Saturday morning.

“Are there any animals that you might be afraid of? Anybody afraid of chickens or turkeys, goats, sheep?” asked Lisa Marie Sopko.

It’s not the usual introduction to a yoga class, but this wasn’t a usual class.

In fact, most of the people who attended the nearly 45-minute “Yoga With the Animals” session came not only for exercise, but to interact with animals that grazed in a bucolic pasture at Kindred Spirits Rescue Ranch.

Sopko, with husband John, owns the 20-acre, nonprofit farm that’s been a sanctuary for neglected, abused, or abandoned animals for more than a year.

Proceeds from the first-time event will go toward building a multi-use barn to serve as temporary emergency shelter for humane officers statewide to house hoarded or neglected animals or as a pop-up shelter for animals needing housing due to natural disasters.

Elyse Mancini Ross of Brighton Township prepares to do a tree pose when a miniature horse named Zoe approaches.

Animals were introduced gradually with Kevin, a Zebu steer; Zoe, a miniature horse; Saylor, a Nigerian dwarf goat; Scout, a donkey; Bluebell, a Nubian goat; and Pepper, a turkey among the first.

“I’m not exactly sure how it’s going to go,” Sopko told participants. “I expect that they’re (animals) going to be very interactive.”

And she offered cautionary advice, especially when yogis engaged in downward and upward dog poses: “Keep your eyes out for the animals that have horns” as they could interpret those positions as a “challenge.”

“If you see something running toward you, just stand up,” she said.

Not to worry. The animals were respectful and decorous. As more were introduced — mostly goats — they were more interested in nibbling weeds, grass and low-hanging tree leaves on the pasture’s perimeter.

Kathryn Powers of South Beaver Township pets Kevin, a Zebu steer, during "Yoga With the Animals" at Kindred Spirits Rescue Ranch, also in South Beaver.

But Kevin was curious and sidled next to Marcy Rudolph of Baden.

“It was pretty awesome,” she said, as the cow, rescued last year at a horse auction, bent its head toward her.

She and niece, Sarah Westover of South Beaver Township, both practice yoga and love animals.

“We don’t really get farm life very much so it’s just nice to do something that’s really unique and seemed really fun,” Rudolph said.

Westover said she knew it was the right decision as soon as they arrived: Several animals in an enclosure ran to the fence to greet them.

“This was great,” Rudolph enthused. “I would totally do this again.”

“Would definitely do it again,” echoed Westover.

A bag of a participant in Saturday's "Yoga With the Animals" attracts the curiosity of Saylor, a Nigerian dwarf goat, who lives at Kindred Spirits Rescue Ranch in South Beaver Township.

Natosha Durr of Chippewa Township came with her 10-year-old daughter Alianna. Both practice yoga.

Alianna has seen YouTube videos of yoga with goats.

“She’s been wanting to do a goat yoga so this is a good mix of the two, Natosha said.

“I’ll probably have a goat or animal on my back,” Alianna said hopefully.

The pair enrolled because “it’s a good cause,” said Natosha.

Maura Woods, 4, of North Sewickley Township, center, focuses on a goat during a benefit for Kindred Spirits Rescue Ranch in South Beaver Township. Maura's mom, Brandy Woods, said her daughter loves animals and wanted to participate in the event to raise money for a new barn.

The event was a family outing for Brandy Woods of North Sewickley Township and her daughter, Maura, 4; mother Sherry Eiler of Darlington; and sister Candice Sprecker of Baden.

Maura loves animals, her mom said, and “exercises around the home with us.”

“I’m trying to support her,” Eiler said of Sopko’s animal rescue efforts. “She’s a neighbor and I try to support her.”



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