“Goat yoga has spread across the nation, from Oregon to Virginia. Doga, or dog yoga, has been around for several years. Even kitten yoga is not unique to Washington; people in Tennessee and Colorado do it, too. Proponents talk of the animals’ soothing nature, possible health benefits — for both two- and four-legged participants — and, of course, fun.”
— The Washington Post, July 22, 2017.
The weather was perfect, but the yoga class would take place in a sealed room with metal doors and in the presence of ten fuzzy baby honey badgers (accompanied by a dozen zoo workers in protective garb, complete with stun guns, tasers and tranquilizers).
Naturally, the class sold out months ago.
The honey badgers didn’t give a shit.
Three-and-a-half hours before class was to begin, zoo workers worked to make sure the space was, in fact, sealed, followed in due time by class participants hoping to find the best spots for their mats — coveted spaces had the most access to the insta-cutely ferocious baby badgers but still appeared physically safe (i.e., near a worker with a stun gun). One woman stood behind the heavy door, hoping she’d make her way off the waitlist and into the mindful mayhem (class was capped at 20 to accommodate both the yogis and the legally required dozen zoo workers); she made a point to sign the mind-bogglingly complex legal waiver, just in case. The infant honey badgers, all very hungry and intent on wreaking havoc, waited in high tech metal cages — that is, for as long as their baby claws remained unsuccessful at smashing out of them.
This unexpected pairing—yoga combined with baby wildlife (and not just any wildlife, but the creature PBS has nicknamed “nature’s bad ass”) — is the brainchild of vinyasa teacher Darcy “Devi Om” Smith. She got the idea when someone asked what her particular yoga class was “with.” Smith recalled her bewilderment as the would-be yogi listed all the hot classes in town: yoga with goats, yoga with horses, yoga with dogs, yoga with wine, yoga with beer, yoga with kittens, yoga with silent heavy metal music. As the potential yoga student left, Smith clicked a link shared by a friend, a viral youtube video featuring the “crazy nastyass honey badger.” What happened next she describes as her “eureka” moment: “two worlds just begging to be ‘yoked’ together,” she said, adding, “yoga means ‘union,’ you know. That’s when it hit me — in order to make money and get some press, I’d need to ‘join’ my yoga classes ‘with’ something.”
Turns out that “something,” would be baby honey badgers.
Devotees of the baby honey badger yoga experience talk of the lessons imparted by these tiny fucking savages, namely, in letting go of fear, in being present (proponents say you have no choice, when these jerks— even in baby version — are about), not to mention the benefits of connecting with nature and stress relief. “I was so worried out about all this stuff going on at work,” said one participant, “and Trump, but spending an hour with these disgusting creatures made me forget all about the office and politics,” she said, “and just fear for my own life.”
Then it was time to start class. Braced for action, several zoo keepers clutched tranquilizer guns while their cohorts released the first cages of baby honey badgers (or rather, they gave up trying to stop the animals from escaping).
A volunteer slowly opened his cupped palms to release a live mouse, and twenty nature-loving yogis poised their phones to take selfies with the baby iterations of nature’s most notorious (and in recent years, internet famous) assholes.
“So, those baby honey badgers just stepped on my teacher toes,” Smith joked, trying to lighten the tense, sweaty-palmed fear gripping the room, “but let’s go about our yoga!”
As the class moved into downward dog, eyes fitfully searched the room for the terrorizing animals. Giggles escaped as two baby honey badgers set to tearing apart the edges of a yoga mat, followed by shouts of fear as the skunk-like weasels got dangerous close to its owner’s feet. Baby honey badgers, apparently, will eat anything. “Don’t worry” called out a fellow yogi — that mat brand is guaranteed for life!” One woman in a t-shirt that read “Spiritual Gangster” said, while watching baby honey badgers smack a snake, that the cute yet mean creatures were teaching her how to be just that. Another yogi sat entertained watching a baby badger eat mice, sending blood and guts everywhere. “It’s gross,” he said, but I’m learning through yoga that you have to open to life, even the gross parts that make you want to vomit.” Zoo volunteers in Armageddon-style protective gear stepped around the mats, moving baby honey badgers around in a feeble attempt to keep them from ruining everything and tearing limbs off people.
“People come to yoga nowadays thinking it’s all about fancy poses and getting a workout,” Smith said. “What we do here is find joy, wonder and that connection to our inner wild child; you’re not focused on the poses or even the breath because you’re worried about getting maimed by an animal.”
Addressing the humans in class, Smith tried to be encouraging: “It’s going to be challenging to maintain your calm breath with all these nasty animals around, but what a great opportunity to practice!”
One minute later, the woman who’d posed for the selfie wasn’t breathing at all as she suffered a panic attack, meanwhile zoo workers finally managed to subdue the honey badgers digging their way to the apartment downstairs (it took a combination of tranquilizers, tasers, bear spray and duct tape). On the other side of the increasingly tense room, Jamie Jenkins, a crossfit coach visiting from California, screamed “Help” to the zoo workers, alerting them of a baby honey badger that had released a skunky stink bomb, then taken a keen interest in the crossfitter’s bicep.
Later, Jenkins chirped, feebly, that the smell “wasn’t as bad as the stench of some hot yoga classes” and that, despite her wounds and required rabies shot, this was by far “the best yoga class of her life.”
“I didn’t get a great workout, but I love yoga, I love nature and mostly, I just love feeling like I could die at any second. This made gun yoga look tame!”
Unfortunately for Jenkins, the baby bad asses are not legally adoptable — or legal, period — but the class does raise money needed to secure additions to keep the creatures enclosed at the zoo (and away from the lions they are fond of attacking).
Soon class came to an end (really soon, about forty-five minutes early), and Smith tried to get students to lay on their backs for savasana, or final rest. “Be like the honey badger, who, bitten with the venom of a cobra, just dozes off for a few moments, only to get back up and resume eating the cobra.” Still, class participants struggled with this final posture, as busy city dwellers and animals under stress often do.
“In corpse pose we recommend closing the eyes, but since there are crazy creatures running around, please keep at least one eye open.”