How Do You Stay Fit If You’re An Elephant? Why Yoga, Of Course

If you want to see a 6,500-pound elephant do a handstand, head over to the Houston Zoo, where an elephant named Tess starts off every day with yoga. At nearly 40 years old, Tess can lift her enormous body on her front too legs with no problem. That’s because it’s just part of her daily workout regimen. “She’s definitely our most flexible,” said Kristen Windle, Houston Zoo’s elephant manager. All 12 members of the elephant herd do multiple training sets, though Tess is the only one who can do a handstand. The Houston Zoo has been training their elephant herd in yoga, and training begins soon after they’re born. Each session lasts anywhere from 30 seconds to 5 minutes, with the older elephants doing the sets at least twice a day to keep their joints moving. It’s completely voluntary, though for participating in the yoga sessions elephants are rewarded with special treats like bananas and slices of bread. Exercises are tailored to meet the elephants’ specific needs, such as targeted training for those with arthritis. The zoo’s exercise program includes the elephants lifting their rear and front feet, balancing on two feet, laying down, and stretching. Not only do the exercises help the elephants to maintain their fitness and aid in monitoring their health, the activity also helps provide mental stimulation. “Elephants are really smart, and they want to be constantly working and learning,” said Windle.