Doga: How to Start Practicing Yoga with Your Dog
It’s no secret that there are many forms of exercise available to us today.
Many people turn to activities like yoga because it can be practiced by all levels of ability and can be done in a gym or at home. Even if you only practice for 20 minutes per day, the benefits are often realized quite quickly. Yoga combines aspects of strength, balance training and even cardio depending on the type.
You don’t need to be a certain shape or size to practice this form of exercise. In fact, you could even be a dog!
Dogs are very intuitive animals. They are easily aware of our emotional state and can sense anxiety and stress. This all boils down to the way that we breathe and how this has an effect on our dog’s central nervous system. Many that teach doga believe that the energy you are feeling when practicing yoga can be directly transferred to your dog.
There are plenty of said benefits of this type of yoga practice, such as calming of hyperactive dogs as well as being a good source of exercise for an injured dog - but how do you know if this practice is right for you and your pup? Read on to find out more.
What is Doga?
Doga, otherwise known as dog yoga, is a trend that was created by Suzi Teitelman in 2001 and has been growing in popularity in the yoga community.
Many dog owners find that this is a fun way to not only take part in an exercise class, but to spend quality time with their pup as well.
This new trend took notice of the already high correlation between yoga poses and the way that animals stretch. When you analyze the poses in most yoga flows, you can actually notice the mimicking of an animal’s stretching movements.
So, how does it work? It is thought that through practicing doga, the dog and their owner will develop a greater harmony and closer bond. Especially when you are repeatedly helping them to perform certain movements.
You dog may enjoy socializing with other dogs in a doga class or may enjoy the calming energy and stretching that yoga is known to provide.
Benefits of Doga
Just as there is seen to be benefits both mentally and physically with yoga in people, the same is said for the practitioners of doga. Some people have said that this practice allows them to feel more connected with their dogs.
Other benefits include:
- Improving the dog’s circulation
- Provision of exercise for injured or obese dogs
- Aiding in relaxation and stress relief
- Works as behavioral therapy
- Can soothe hyperactive or anxious dogs
- Helps to develop impulse control
It may not be as stimulating as taking your dog to the local dog park or for a run, but the practice of doga is still quite helpful to both you and your pup.
“She used to bark. She used to bark a lot. But now, after the doga, she is more relaxed.”
These benefits are usually seen over time, so if your dog doesn’t immediately take to the different poses and the doga practice, it’s completely normal. As any type of training would, it takes time, patience and persistence. Keeping this in mind, it’s important to note that every dog will not be suited to every pose.
If nothing else, it’s a fun activity to try at least once and it’s something that you and your dog can enjoy together.
How to Start Doing Yoga with Your Dog
So you’re interested in practicing yoga with your dog, but how do you begin?
There are two primary ways that your pup can be included in your yoga practice: in a class with other humans and dogs, or with you at home.
Many times, people run into not being able to find a doga class nearby where they live. A common problem, as you’re more likely to find yoga classes that allow dogs in bigger cities. However, don’t let this be a deterrent.
Sometimes, you can call your local studio to see if there is an instructor with a fondness for dogs that may be willing to lead a class in a shelter or public space.
However, if you find yourself preferring the comfort of your own home when trying new activities, this is certainly a good alternative as well. As long as you have a dog, a yoga mat and a bit of space, that should do the trick!
As you’re beginning with doga, whether you’re a seasoned yogi or not, it’s important to remember to go at the dog’s pace. Dogs are not able to bend into tree pose or warrior one, however, their downward dog is something to take notes on! Take your time, let them lead and don’t force your pup.
Sometimes they just want to enjoy spending time with you!
5 Best Doga Poses
Your dog has likely already mastered the downward dog pose. In fact, they’re probably top of the class. When it comes to finding poses that work for both of you, it’s probably not a far jump to say that some poses may not be able to be performed by your pup.
Sometimes, you may even find yourself concerned that you might not be able to lift your dog when certain poses require you to do so. This is completely normal, so don’t worry.
These five poses will give you a solid starting point for your doga practice:
In a traditional yoga practice, this pose resembles a push-up with a focus on strengthening the back, arms and core.
As your pup would not be able to do this pose in the traditional sense, it has been modified to suit your doga routine. Have your dog lay on their stomach, while you pet their back. This will calm your dog and ease them gently into this new exercise.
2. Heart to Hound Mudra
This pose is one that focuses on connecting both you and your dog’s energy within your yoga practice.
Begin seated, with your left hand on your heart. Place your right hand on your dog’s heart while breathing slowly. Close your eyes. You will notice the soothing nature of this energy transfer between you and your dog.
3. Puppy Paw Mudra
In the Puppy Paw Mudra, your dog needs to lay on its stomach with its front paws extended.
Kneel behind your dog with your head on their back, placing your hands on their paws. Breathe deeply and turn your head to the side.
Your dog may already be familiar with this pose and it may already be one of their favorite things!
Have your pup lay on its back with their belly exposed. Breathe slowly and stroke your dog’s belly.
5. Chair Pose
This pose requires your dog to sit on its back paws as you support their torso. Place their paws in the air and breathe deeply.
Depending on your dog, this pose may be one that you need to let your dog take the lead on, as it may not be a pose they are automatically comfortable with doing.
Source: Fix.com Blog
Remember: Always Consult Your Vet
An important thing to remember when practicing doga, is that unlike people, dogs are unable to tell you when they’ve had enough. Let your pet take the lead - sometimes for them, chewing on a toy is just as enjoyable as savasana is for you. If you are unsure as to whether doga is right for your dog, consult your veterinarian before taking part in a class or an at-home session.
Who knows, you may have just found an activity that both you and your pup enjoy doing together. Better yet, you can never have too much quality time with your four-legged friend!