Yoga has gone to the dogs — literally.
“Doga” was created by Suzi Teitelman, a yoga instructor from Jacksonville, Florida. She says there’s nothing wacky about doga. It’s simply regular yoga that incorporates pets.
In other words, you work out while bonding with your pet.
Investigating This Trend
Not having had the benefit of attending a doga class myself, I talked with psychotherapist and yoga teacher Nichole Vykoukal of Austin Doga to learn more.
“One of my passions is helping people slow down and practice compassion for themselves and others, including their companion animals,” says Vykoukal. “Practicing yoga with your dog is a beautiful mix in which both you and your dog benefit.”
“The benefits include modeling a more relaxed and calm state to your dog; bonding deeply with your dog; and giving your own body, mind and soul the replenishment, nourishment and rest it craves.”
No Training Needed
Your dog shouldn’t need specialized training to do yoga with you, because he isn’t actually going to be doing the poses — you are.
“The dogs are basically lying or sitting on the yoga mat,” says Vikoukal. “They are not doing any physical activity. In my classes, students … pet their dogs, give them praise and practice a few gentle massage techniques. I instruct students to watch for any cues of discomfort and stress in their dog, and to practice love and compassion toward themselves and their dogs.”
Posing With Your Pet
Suzi Teitelman, in an interview with the Today show, says you can do the exercises just about anywhere, from your floor to your couch.
You won’t need any special equipment — just patience and a good sense of fun.
Here are 3 ways to incorporate your pet into your routine:
- In the Downward Dog position, your dog can lie beneath you.
- In the Plank position, your dog can be positioned directly before you — or on your back, if you happen to have abs of steel.
- In the Easy Pose, sit cross-legged as you normally would. Instead of placing your palms on your thighs, reach forward a bit and place them on your dog.
“The best way to prevent injury is to slow down and be mindful of your body and your dog,” says Vikoukal. “Practice gentle yoga poses on the floor next to your pup. Practice mindfulness by slowing down and really connecting in the moment with your best furry friend.”
All Dogs Can Do Yoga
Smaller dogs may have an easier time resting on your lap and on your back. Larger dogs have the option of not only being close to you while you perform your poses, but also they can also be a support for you when you’re starting to tip over. (I have; it’s completely undignified.)
Just remember not to put your body weight on your dog — they’re only there to help you maintain balance.
You can also incorporate your larger dog by using them for stretches:
- Allow them to stand far enough so that you get a good stretch in order to reach them.
- Then, during your stretch, give them lots of patting and rubbing — they’ll love that.
Here’s an informative video on the trend of doga:
Criticisms of Doga
As fun as this all may seem, some critics say yoga is intended to be a deeply spiritual practice — and that adding dogs trivializes it.
You want my opinion? I think that both the benefits of spending time with our pets and the importance of good overall health in people and dogs are well documented. Doga combines both these things in a way that allows us to bond with our dogs while becoming stronger, fitter, healthier and happier.
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