Do You Doga?
If you love yoga, and you’re a dog-lover, doga is a great way to combine your two loves
As its name suggests, Doga is the concept of doing yoga with your dog. Founded in 2002 by yoga instructor, Suzi Teitelman, doga involves you doing yoga poses and your dog joining in as a casual participant. Dogs don’t actually do human yoga poses in doga –except perhaps for a kickass downward dog! In short, doga provides you with the same benefits of yoga – but with the added bonus of bonding time with your beloved pooch.
According to Teitelman, doga incorporates elements of hatha yoga, plus a lot of petting and gentle massages for your pet. Think constant contact and engagement with your dog in a zen environment. Dogs are weaved into your yoga poses as weights to enhance and intensify your pose, and at other times, to help you keep your balance as you move into different postures. However, they are not just there as yoga aids. You are a tool for them as well.
Pets can pick up your energy, so the way you breathe has a direct impact on your dog’s central nervous system. When you practise yoga with your pet, the calming energy from the deep breathing exercises and your relaxed state of mind bounces off her in a soothing manner. It is your dog’s yoga class, as much as it is yours. Doga is a fun activity to complement daily walks with your pet, but there are more health benefits than just spending quality time together.
1) Deepen the natural bond with your dog
As partners in doga, you and your canine companion learn how to trust each other and strengthen your relationship in the process. The feeling of connectedness helps to build mutual trust, as well as confidence and independence in your dog. As you become more in tune with each other, her focus and inclination to listen to your commands, can translate into a smoother facilitation of training and behaviour correction (even outside of class).
Bond-building is also essential especially if you’re in the process of rehoming, fostering, or adopting a new dog. Another plus of doga classes? Your pet gets the opportunity to learn how to socialise with other dogs in a calm and collected environment.
2) Relieve anxiety for you and your furry friend
This goes both ways. Whether you are an anxious human, or you have an anxious pup, doga helps to release stress or anxiety. It’s important to note that doga doesn’t magically dissolves stress. You need to set an intention and follow it in your heart. This translates to how you breathe and move when you practise yoga, only then can you and your pet unwind and connect during a session of doga.
When you feel stressed, that tension can transfer to your animal and stress her out too. Often times, we tend to forget how much time our dogs are left alone – dogs are social beings, so extended time alone can contribute to their stress and anxiety too. Being stressed affects the way your pet socialises with others. In fact, stress is just as damaging to dogs as it is to humans. Similarly, stress reduction in dogs can help to regulate their adrenal glands, lower high blood pressure, and improve sleep and digestion.
3) Alleviate pain
Like humans, dogs suffer from various painful joint conditions such as arthritis and hip dysplasia. Doga is said to be able to compliment joint pain treatments, as the gentle stretching motions of yoga can help relieve muscle tension and aches in your dog, while helping her to rebuild strength. According to Dr. Danielle Shemanski, a veterinarian from the Hilton Veterinary Hospital, doga can also help to improve a dog’s posture.
The goal of doga is for your dog to absorb your calm, not to become stressed by your experience.
– Mahny Djahanguiri, the author of DOGA: Yoga For You and Your Dog.
Keep calm and be patient
It takes time and patience to establish a doga routine. Like humans, dogs are individuals with different personalities. Expectedly, some of them may behave more unpredictably in new environments, so it’ll take more than a class to get them settled in. Most importantly, never force your dog to do something she doesn’t want to do. If she wanders off or goes to sleep, let her be.
Go with an open mind. Naturally, doga classes are less structured than an all-human classes. Expect some barking, whining, treat chewing, and lots of love and laughter! Be sure to pack a bottle of water and a dog bowl to keep your pet hydrated throughout the session. And if she doesn’t seem to enjoy doga, take a break and start again another day. Experts remind us that doga (and any variation of it), should always be carried out under the watchful eye of trained professionals. Remember that dogs can’t tell us when they’ve had enough, so check with your vet to make sure doga doesn’t cause your dog any discomfort.