Gardening As Exercise
Whether you have a small patch of land or a large yard, gardening is a great way to get outdoors and stay active. It burns calories, helps improve your heart health and improves your sense of well-being.
They came for the yoga. But what they really came for was the elephants.
About 40 men and women brought their yoga mats to Myakka Elephant Ranch for a chance to exercise and spend time with some of the largest, most powerful and majestic animals on earth.
To be clear, people don’t actually do yoga with elephants. They do yoga in the presence of elephants, who are a few yards away inside a stout fenced enclosure.
Lou, a 38-year-old African elephant, and Patty and Carol, 50-year-old Asian elephants, did not disappoint.
All three female pachyderms are rescues. Lou was orphaned due to herd culling taking place in Africa in the 1980s. Patty and Carol are retired them from the entertainment industry, said Julia Braren, chief operating officer for Myakka Elephant Ranch.
Annemarie Kennedy, the yoga director for Operation Warrior Resolution, was a paying customer for another event at the elephant ranch a year ago when it dawned on her that this would be a perfect place for yoga classes.
It was shaded, green, quiet and peaceful. And there was the dignified presence of the elephants, an animal sacred to Hinduism and India, where yoga originated.
A year ago, Operation Warrior Resolution, an organization dedicated to putting veterans on a path of holistic health and wellness, held its first yoga class at the ranch for veterans and their families.
Word got around, and soon non-veterans were clamoring for an opportunity to take the class.
Roughly every two months since then, the class has been held at Myakka Elephant Ranch.
Kennedy says the sessions with the elephants can be magical.
At the sound of chanting, Lou will often come walking over near the yoga class, making a low purr.
“It’s such a joy that that there is an elephant and she is happy that we are here,” Kennedy said.
It’s such a powerful experience that Kennedy said it sometimes brings her to tears.
Mike Suter, who served in the Army from 2008 to 2012, was among those taking part in the yoga classes.
“This is a great experience,” said Suter, adding that he is happy that Operation Warrior Resolution can have some of its programs at the ranch.
Kendra Simpkins, founder of Operation Warrior Resolution, served as a U.S. Army intelligence analyst before being honorably discharged in 2010. The nonprofit’s goal is to help provide innovative and holistic mental health treatments to veterans and family members, and suicide prevention.
“Every time we do one of these classes, we get more and more responses. The surprise is that there so many people who are wanting to go to the class and we end up having a waiting list,” she said.
The next class has not yet been scheduled. For more information, check the OWR Facebook page or operationwarriorresolution.org/.
Myakka Elephant Ranch
Myakka Elephant Ranch is a nonprofit conservation center. Elephants have been on the property since 1986. In 2019, it was incorporated as a nonprofit, open to the public by appointment.
“From tusk to tail we strive to educate our guests on elephant conservation while providing a memorable once in a lifetime experience,” the ranch’s website says.
The Ranch offers a variety of programs and outreaches.
“We provide complementary encounters to qualifying nonprofit and education groups. We set aside 10% of our encounters specifically for community outreach,” according to the website.
For the safety of the elephants, the address for Myakka Elephant Ranch is not disclosed but is provided upon making a booking for an event.
For more information, visit myakkaelephantranch.org/.