By Patty Dobson
Whether it’s a delicious downward facing down, with front legs stretched forwards, bum and tail up in the air, or upward facing dog, as your pup slides off the couch, back legs stick straight as his front legs pull him forward into the juiciest stretch for his spine, torso, chest, shoulders, front and hind legs, dogs naturally love a good stretch and a sweet comfy curl up.
It’s no surprise that doggie yoga, or doga, has been a popular practice for pups and their hoomans. Yoga, which is a Sanskrit word meaning “the act of yoking or uniting,” is a practice that seeks to unite or reconnect one’s body, mind, and breath into alignment, creating a sense of ease and equanimity, which prepares the body for seated meditation. In the West, we often equate asana, or physical postures as yoga. These physical postures provide a place to play and be present, in the moment, while stretching, strengthening, and stimulating our physical and psychological body, as well as our nervous system.
Similarly, doga practice speaks to our pup’s sense of play and connection with their pack, consisting of you and your pup. Ranging from 45 minutes to an hour, doga’s quality time shared between pup and hooman, where a calm, connected environment is created to bond, build trust and be fully in the moment. We can often be with our pups and due to daily distractions, barely pay any attention to them. I’m looking at you, smartphones.
Classes involve puppy poses assisted by their hoomans, for gentle to deeper stretches, cuddling, petting, massage and meditation. A gentle form of exercise, it can improve circulation, increase flexibility, release tight or tense muscles, stretch neglected areas, reduce stress, lower blood pressure, help resolve behavioral issues and aid in digestion. For some hoomans, it gives them an opportunity to also examine their precious pup for new lumps, bumps and potential abnormalities they wouldn’t otherwise be able to detect. The mutual takeaway is the deep sense calm and connection shared between pup and hooman. Pups often arrive to class excited and leave calm, relaxed and soothed.
Curious about doga class? Here’s how to get started:
- Research for doga classes in or around your area.
- Check with your vet to ensure your pup is healthy enough to practice.
- Remember that there is no certification and classes can vary greatly from teacher to teacher. Some classes will have hoomans practicing yoga poses (asana), as dogs hang out and watch. In others, pups are the main participants and hoomans assist the pups.
- Check with the doga teacher to see if a health certificate with your pup’s recent shots is required. Some classes require them, while others don’t.
- Can’t find a doga class nearby or prefer something more low key? Consider doga at home, using books or DVDs. Two great books to consider are Doga: Yoga For Dogs by Jennifer Briliant and Barking Buddha: Simple Soul Stretches for Yogi and Dogi.
Heading to class or practicing at home? Be sure to:
- Bring a mat, water, towel and treats for your pup.
- Observe, respect and be gentle with your pup. Never force your pup into a pose. If there’s a pose he doesn’t want to do, has physical limitations, or isn’t as flexible, don’t push it.
- Remember that the intention of doga is to bond and build trust with our pup, not create stress or anxiety.
- Turn off your cell phones and enjoy the time with your pup!