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Natural Awakenings North Central New Jersey

Asanas That Benefit Animals: The Tale of Happy Tails Yoga

Apr 20, 2011 07:23PM ● By Cindy Carlone

Tiffany Twardowsky with Daisy and Taz

An idea born of a love for animals and the healing power of yoga has taken form as a fundraising event that benefits four- and two-legged creatures alike. Happy Tails Yoga–A Cause for Paws, now in its third year, offers donation-based yoga classes
throughout the Garden State, with all proceeds benefiting the New Jersey Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (NJSPCA). While classes can be held at any time of the year, the majority will be held this May, during Happy Tails Yoga Month.

The classes are the brainchild of Tiffiny Twardowsky, a registered yoga teacher with the National Yoga Alliance and the director of Energy in Motion LLC, a Rockaway-based company that provides on-site fitness and wellness services to corporate and private clients. Having earned a BS in Movement Science with a concentration in Exercise Physiology, and an MS in Health/Fitness Management, Twardowsky has adopted a teaching style that combines the science of physiology with the holistic principles of yogic philosophy. As a result, she is able to offer her clients an integrated wellness program that benefits body, mind, and spirit.

An Idea Profound in Its Simplicity

The idea behind Happy Tails Yoga is as simple yet empowering as the practice of yoga itself: Yoga instructors throughout New Jersey donate their time and talent by teaching a Happy Tails Yoga class. Those who attend the classes—which are open to all, at any experience level—donate whatever amount they choose. Happy Tails Yoga teachers then send 100 percent of the proceeds to the NJSPCA, a nonprofit organization. People who sign up for classes reap the benefits that yoga provides—improved flexibility and strength, relaxed breathing, a lowering of blood pressure, and an overall sense of contentedness—while knowing their donation will go to a good cause.

One of the unique features of this fundraiser is that the donors themselves decide how much to give: “People can donate any amount they wish—I’ve had people donate $250!” says Twardowsky. Ultimately, what matters isn’t the amount but the fact that in a difficult economic climate, people are still willing to give to those whose needs are great—and who can’t ask for help themselves: As Twardowsky says, “We are giving animals a voice, one dollar at a time.”

Tiffiny Twardowsky came up with the idea for Happy Tails Yoga in 2008 after speaking with two other yoga instructors with whom she shared a passion for animals. It turned out that all three had adopted their pets from rescue groups or animal shelters. So the “marriage of yoga and animals was a natural fit,” she says. “Yoga is more than just a form of exercise. It is a way of life, helping you enhance your own health and well-being.” Since opening her home and heart to adopted dogs, she wanted to find a way to “enhance the health and well-being of the too many abandoned, neglected, and unloved animals in New Jersey.” As her idea took shape, with yoga teachers coming on board and offering to teach classes, her passion sparked a creative side she hadn’t known existed: She designed the fliers sent to participating teachers as well as the logo on her website, HappyTailsYoga.org. These creative efforts, well outside her comfort zone, were nonetheless a labor of love.

Helping Those Who Help Animals

Twardowsky chose the NJSPCA to receive Happy Tails donations because it provides services statewide; she wanted the funds raised during Happy Tails Yoga classes, which are held all over the state, to benefit all of New Jersey’s animals in need.

Headquartered in New Brunswick, the New Jersey Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals was createdin 1868, making it the second oldest SPCA in the country. While its agents are law enforcement officers mandated by the state to “investigate and prosecute all persons involved in animal abuse and neglect,” it receives no funding from the state; it operates solely on donations, grants, bequests, and monies from fines levied against those convicted of crimes against animals. The organization is also committed to humane education and responsible pet ownership. In the past two years, the NJSPCA has received nearly $5,000 in donations from Happy Tails Yoga classes.

Tazzy’s Legacy

The inspiration for Happy Tails Yoga wasa boxer who came into Tiffiny Twardowsky’s life and captured her heart. When she and her husband, Jerry, adopted Taz, their first dog, they had little idea what an impact he would have—and no idea that saving him would lead to saving other dogs. Although Tazzy (their affectionate nickname for him) had been picked up as a sad, skinny stray in Sayreville, he was transported by Second Chance Boxer Rescue, based in Maine, to a foster home there. In 2002, the Twardowskys made the long journey north to meet the dog who would become theirs—and it was truly a case of love at first sight.

The first-time dog owners were admittedly nervous about introducingtheir pup to his new home; as Tiffiny recalls, “We learned a lot from Taz, especially in the first six months.” But Taz was a willing and patient teacher: After eating his first meal at the Twardowskys, he lay down on the floor, at their feet, while they sat on the couch. Over time, the floor gave way to the couch, their bed, and the many dog beds they eventually placed in each room of their house. Taz had found—and claimed—his forever home. Four years later, they adopted another boxer, Daisy, to provide companionship to their special boy. Daisy, unlike Tazzy, was not with a rescue group: She was adopted from the ASPCA shelter in New York. And the two became fast friends, despite their very different personalities.

Sadly, in April of last year, cancer claimed Taz. While the pain of his loss seemed unbearable for Tiffiny and Jerry, it also proved unbearable for Daisy, who had, in Tiffiny’s words, “adored Tazzy,” and was “just so depressed” following his death. So the Twardowskys decided, once again, to adopt another boxer. What seemed a simple decision was complicated by Tiffiny’s fear that Tazzy, whose spirit was always present, might think they were “replacing him.” She kept looking for a sign that adopting another dog was the right thing to do.

That sign came when they went to see Titan, another boxer, who was being fostered in Parlin. (Parlin is a section of Sayreville, where Taz had originally been rescued.) As Tiffiny recounts, “When we took Daisy to meet Titan, his foster parents also introduced us to their own boxer, named Bruno. My husband and I took one look, and we were stunned. Neither of us said a word: Bruno could have been Tazzy’s twin! He barked like Taz, was crabby like Taz, he had the same personality. It was amazing. My husband said it first: ‘That dog looks and acts exactly like Taz!’ That’s how I knew Tazzy was okay, and Titan was the dog for us and Daisy.” Tiffiny remains convinced that Tazzy sent them to Titan, whom they adopted in May of last year. And so the cycle of life—and love—continues: Titan and Daisy, according to Twardowsky, are “inseparable.”

Tiffiny Twardowsky’s selfless spirit has found yet another outlet, another chance to help animals and the people who protect them. Readers may be aware of the story of Patrick, the pit bull mix, who was starved and found at the bottom of a garbage chute in a Newark apartment building in March. Patrick’s indomitable will to live, despite horrendous abuse and neglect, has captured the hearts and minds of people around the world and led them to visit the Facebook pages of the groups involved in Patrick’s case. The NJSCPA’s investigation has led to charges against Patrick’s owner. Twardowsky now volunteers her time to help the overwhelmed staff at the NJSPCA post updates about Patrick on its Facebook page. Look for her posts—signed, simply, “Tiffi.”

“Just pick a class, grab your mat, and go!”

Teachers interested in holding a Happy Tails Yoga Class need only visit HappyTailsYoga.org. There they’ll find a downloadable registration form. After the classes are held, they can download a completion form, fill it out, and send it with all donations to the NJSPCA.

To find a Happy Tails class near you, visit HappyTailsYoga.org and click on “Schedule.” Classes will continue to be added through May. It’s a chance to give yourself the gift of yoga’s healing benefits while making a difference in the lives of New Jersey’s companion animals. It’s a difference that’s quite literally a matter of life or death, according to Tiffiny Twardowsky: “The more money we raise, the more animals we save!”

To find a list of Happy Tails Yoga classes, visit HappyTailsYoga.org; contact Tiffiny Twardowsky at [email protected] com or 973-983-9554 for additional information. To learn more about Energy in Motion LLC, visit EinMotion.com. To learn more about the work of the NJSPCA, visit NJSPCA.org.

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