Yoga has been a popular activity in the U.S. for decades. This strength training pursuit, which began in ancient India as a spiritual practice, provides a variety of health benefits including better sleep, greater energy, good muscle tone, improved circulation and lower blood pressure. As if all that wasn't reward enough for doing yoga, some instructors have found a way to make it even more wonderful. They are teaching a practice called doga--yoga with dogs.
According to New York City yoga instructor Suzi Teitelman, doga started in 2001 when she began incorporating her Cocker Spaniel into her yoga routines. Teitelman soon began teaching classes in a practice she termed "ruff yoga," and later doga.
In doga, yogis -- those individuals who participate in yoga--include their dogs in their practice. Essentially, yoga class members perform yoga poses that incorporate their dogs. While the dogs aren't doing the exact same poses as their human partners, they are either participating by performing a compatible dog-friendly pose, or are contributing by becoming an extension of the yogi's pose.
While this might sound a bit silly, doing yoga with your dog actually has many benefits. Not only do you get to spend quality time with your dog, it also teaches your dog to trust you. It can also help reduce anxiety in high-strung dogs, while also encouraging you to be "in the moment" with your pet. The serenity that is so much a part of yoga spreads to both you and your dog, encouraging a sense of calm and peacefulness.
Here are a few dog-friendly poses offered by doga instructors. Some of these poses require help from another person to position your dog on your body: o Chaturanga: Your dog lies on his stomach while you kneel next to him and stroke his back.
You reach forward in this traditional yoga move, and lift up your dog at the end of the bend. This is assuming you have a small dog that is small enough to be easily lifted.
Heart and Hound
You sit cross-legged with your dog in front of you, with one hand on your heart, and the other hand on your dog's chest.
You create an arch with your body, with your shoulders flat on the ground, with your dog resting on your abdomen.
This traditional pose requires hands and feet flat on the ground with your body creating a V-shape. Your dog lies on tops of you, draped across your lower back and seat bones.
All the hands-on activity that takes place during doga class gives you the chance to become familiar with your dog's body. It will be easier to notice any changes, such as lumps, cuts or sore spots.
If you'd like to try doga with your canine companion, contact a local yoga center to find out if doga is offered. Or, if you want to do doga at home, check out a book called "Doga: Yoga for You and Your Dog," by Mahny Djahanguiri.