NEWTOWN, Conn. — It's not every yoga studio where you'll find a deaf albino American Bulldog sitting by the teacher's side. But at The Newtown Yoga Center, which opened Feb. 6, having what Owner Aline Marie calls a "doga" teacher is entirely appropriate.
Marie said Truth Lightening, who she rescued when she lived in California, has been meditating and practicing yoga with her since he was about four months old.
It's mainly because of the tragedies he went through in his puppyhood that she keeps him near as he has extreme separation anxiety. He's not at every class, just the occasional Monday and Friday mornings and Tuesday and Thursday nights.
"He knows to lay/stay while I teach and then after class he can go and snuggle and smooch everyone," she said. "It's a great social outlet for him, it helps my peace of mind, and the students love him and appreciate the gentle presence he brings as well as the humor and smiles!
"In Newtown, dogs have a special place in many people's hearts after the tragedy, and although he's not a true therapy dog, he's certainly a therapeutic presence."
Only her dog is permitted in the studio at this time though she would be willing to make concessions for those with service dogs. And, because the Danbury native has had experience with "Doga" classes at The Exceptional Pet, a local dog training facility, she has not ruled out doing classes for those with pets on the lawn outside her studio during the summer. "Stay tuned," she said.
For now, she's concentrated on the mission of her studio: To be a safe haven for those who are looking for peace of mind, body and heart.
"The N.Y.C. is non-denominational and a trauma aware yoga studio," she stressed.
On the front door is a sign that says "You are entering sacred grounds, please act accordingly." Marie, who has taught yoga on and off in the area for the past 12 years, is very mindful of creating a welcoming, supportive and safe atmosphere.
"She calls herself the "Chief Yoga Mechanic" as a way to poke a bit of fun at herself -- she grew up in a family of car mechanics -- and likes to take the time to break down yoga poses in a simple relatable way so everyone feels comfortable.
Said Marie: "Just as you would take a car apart piece by piece to fix it and understand how it works, I like to think I can do the same with the mind/body connection."
The Newtown Yoga Studio is at 78 S. Main St., 203-270-1018, www.thenewtownyogacenter.com/ .