Using a soothing tone of voice and the most relaxing music ever recorded, yogi Willow Withy creates a serene atmosphere for her budding yoga students. And then, three dolphins swim by the observation window to wreak a little havoc on the humans. It's not so much disruptive to the class setting - it is yoga with dolphins at The Mirage, after all - but it's outrageously adorable. Which makes it hard to hold that downward-facing dog pose.
Somehow, Withy's seven students manage to resist the urge to run over and press their faces to the glass for the duration of the one-hour class.
"Yoga can sometimes be intimidating," Miami resident Allison Bass, 24, says after class. "This was really cool with the dolphins playing in the background. I really enjoyed it."
About six months ago, the Mirage Spa management was trying to introduce yoga to the spa, Withy says. They don't really have classroom space inside, so they had to think outside the box.
They came up with yoga among the dolphins.
The class is held at 8:30 a.m. Fridays through Sundays in an underground viewing room at the Dolphin Habitat. All yoga skill levels are welcome.
A giant window allows people to view the swimming dolphins.
On this recent Friday, it's the three boy dolphins, Maverick, Cosmo and Lightning, that are visible to the class. Because it's so early in the morning, these yoga students are among the first human faces the dolphins see that day. And the dolphins take full advantage of it.
While Withy instructs students to bend, twist and stretch, the dolphins do laps at high speed. Their graceful movement through the water is hypnotic. They playfully buzz by the window showing their bellies; occasionally, one stops to look into the room, his smiling snout almost touching the glass.
These dolphins seem to want the humans' attention.
Since she started teaching the class, Withy has noticed a difference in how students react. It's not like an ordinary yoga class, she says. People often get emotional.
"A lot of people have really moving experiences when they do this," Withy says.
Research has shown that humans experience positive effects from interacting with dolphins, Withy says, which may explain why some of her students have such visceral responses during and after the class.
This class was the highlight of their vacation, says Elizabeth Flores, 30. She and her friends Angela Gonzalez, 32, and Rebecca Tamez, 28, were visiting from Texas.
While on the plane to Las Vegas, the friends read about yoga with dolphins. They signed up after they checked into their hotel.
The friends had always wanted to try yoga, and this class sounded too good to be true, Gonzalez says.
"Our first yoga was awesome," Flores says.
Yoga among the dolphins is available by appointment only and costs $50. The fee includes full use of the spa facilities. Call 791-7472 to make a reservation.
Contact reporter Sonya Padgett at spadgett@ reviewjournal.com or 702-380-4564. Follow @StripSonya on Twitter.