by Megha Nancy Buttenheim

I have always adored dogs—I’ve sometimes wondered if I was one in a former life, maybe a yellow lab or a black royal standard poodle with no pom-poms. Due to highly sensitive wrists, I am not a lover of Down Dog, but I am a lover of real dogs, the bigger the better. I adore the way they dance and prance; I worship the way they love with their luminous eyes, panting tongues, and huge hearts.

Two decades ago, I discovered Rumi’s poem “Love Dogs,” and felt an instant kinship:

One night a man was crying,
“Allah, Allah!”
His lips grew sweet with the praising,
until a cynic said,
“So! I have heard you
calling out, but have you ever
gotten any response?”
The man had no answer for that.
He quit praying and fell into a confused sleep,
where he dreamed he saw the guide of souls in a thick green foliage.

“Why did you stop praising?”
“Because I never heard anything back.”
“This longing you express is the return message.”
The grief you cry out from
draws you toward union.
Your pure sadness that wants help
is the secret cup.

Listen to the moan of a dog for its master.
That whining is the connection.
There are love dogs no one knows the names of.
Give your life to be one of them.

When I think of love dogs, I am reminded of Clarissa Pinkola Estes and her wonderful book, Women Who Run With the Wolves. She tells of the wolves—also love dogs—howling to the moon, howling to Mother Earth, howling to wild nature. As I read Rumi’s poem, I’m also reminded of certain humans who love and love and love, until their hearts break open, just like the love dogs, overflowing with pain, love, and joy.

These days, my love dog heart is breaking daily with the ongoing news of climate change and its manifestations in extreme weather patterns and natural disasters. We are watching the demise of our wildlife, our bees, our polar bears, our humans. Last week, I heard the morning news and, like a love dog, I howled in pain.

And then I got to work. Turns out it was my day to lead Let Your Yoga Dance with the drummers at Kripalu. I brought my Rumi poem along and invited the 85 attendees to join me in a love dog–themed Let Your Yoga Dance class, in which I invited us all to howl our love for the Earth and bring back to our Mama Gaia a deep, abiding love and respect.

All it took was a sentence or two for me to set the intention, along with a demonstration howl. We must have howled during that hour at least 10 times, which goes to show: Company is stronger than willpower. When we dance, pray, and focus together on a certain topic, we can change the world. As Gandhi taught, we can indeed be the change we yearn to see on this struggling yet still beautiful, blue-green planet. After class, I asked that we all do one small thing for the planet, that day and every day.

That class was one of my favorites ever. All my classes nowadays are based not only on the time-honored chakra system—with a focus on body health, brain health, heart health, and soul health—but also on taking a stand for the planet. I am bumping up each class’s intention so that together we can make the changes we need for future generations to thrive, breathe, and have a safe place to call home.

Megha Nancy Buttenheim, MA, M.A., E-RYT 1000, is CEO and founding director of Let Your Yoga Dance® LLC, and author of “Expanding Joy: Let Your Yoga Dance, Embodying Positive Psychology”. An expert in experiential education, Megha is a long-time teacher-trainer at Kripalu Center, where she has trained thousands of people in yoga, health, movement, and meditation.