Yoga is good for Elephants too!

Yoga is part of the daily care of the herd in the Houston zoo.

Jun 19, 2023


Wildlife, Yoga
Yoga is good for Elephants too! | Yoga is part of the daily care of the herd in the Houston zoo.

Yoga isn’t just for people anymore. Elephants at the Houston Zoo in Texas are keeping flexible by doing yoga.

Everyday, the 12 Asian elephants at the zoo are doing exercises as part of their mental and physical care, according to a blog from the zoo. The yoga-like moves stimulates their brains and bodies.

“Cultivating strong, positive relationships with our elephants is critical to providing them with the best healthcare to ensure their well-being is put first,” Kristin Windle, Houston Zoo elephant supervisor said in the blog.

“The elephant yoga stretching sessions allow us to build that relationship using positive reinforcement to increase their range of motion and get eyes on their skin, feet and inside their mouths. We can learn a lot about our elephants in these important sessions.”

Yoga training
The training begins as soon as the elephants are born, reported The NY Post. At first, the trainers get to know the elephants, learn their names, and make sure that the pachyderms are comfortable being handled.

The yoga sessions, which run between 30 seconds to five minutes are voluntary but the animals who participate get treats like fruit or bread after each session.

“If they don’t want to get involved or if they don’t want to keep working with it, they can just walk away,” Windle told The Post. “There’s nothing we can do to stop that but they know they’re not getting the bread or the produce.” 

Exercise is required by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums but every zoo has its own exercise program. The Houston zoo settled on yoga as a way to keep its elephants fit and healthy.

Elephant moves
The exercises are tailored to the elephants and include lifting their front or back feet, balancing on two legs, and stretches. Windle said that the exercises mimic the elephants’ natural movements.

Each elephant has its own moves and personalized routine. Teddy, a two-year-old youngster is still learning how to identify his body parts with his trainers.  The zoo’s oldest elephant, 54-year-old Methai, has arthritis and has much slower, gentler moves.

One elephant named Tess, is one of the most flexible, reported The Houston Chronicle. Weighing 6,500-pounds, she can prop her body up on her front legs to do stretches and can even do a handstand.

“We want them to constantly be learning new things,” Windle told The Post. “We don’t want to get stagnant. They are really smart and they want to be constantly working and learning.”

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Bonnie has dedicated her life to promoting social justice. She loves to write about empowering women, helping children, educational innovations, and advocating for the environment & sustainability.