Although many people like to think of Doga as “doggie yoga,” this is not the case. In Doga, the Yogi does most of the hard work while the Dogi is the by-stander and a sometime casual participant that aids you through the poses, serving as a weight or as a block or a prop. In fact, because of your dog’s anatomy and physiology, it would actually be harmful to stretch him out, as his tendons and ligaments are very tender.
We don’t want to rush things. Over time your dog will become used to you making space for yoga and encouraging him to join in. He will understand that this is a “special time” where you can both relax and be together. You dog doesn’t even have to get involved in any of the yoga poses, but he can still absorb your calm. You can influence him through regulating your breathing pattern, which calms down your dog while also calming down your central nervous system.
Participating in Doga can have numerous benefits for your dog:
Deep sleep/absorbing calm
Dogs are thinking animals; they dream and can even have nightmares. Your dog’s brain needs to process what he has seen and heard during the day, just like yours. A dog that lives in an especially stressful environment will find it hard to sleep. Without a good night’s sleep, your dog can become moody, lethargic or even aggressive. After a Doga session, your dog will be out like a light, having absorbed your calm.
A regular yoga practice that involves positive affirmation, stroking and massage can enhance your dog’s trust in you. If you are dealing with a traumatized dog, your peaceful and relaxed attitude will give him the reassurance he needs and not reinforce negative attention he has received in the past.
A better bond between you
Doga enhances the natural bond that already exists between you and your dog. In Doga, we don’t own our dog and our dog doesn’t own us. Instead, we reconnect through intuition (as nature intended) rather than through intention. This helps your dog bond with you naturally.
For most dogs, the attachment they feel towards their owner is fundamental to their well-being. It is up to us to ensure that this attachment is not fear-based. Abandonment and attachment issues are increasingly common in dogs. By allowing your dog to come and go as he pleases on your yoga mat, Doga provides a great environment in which your dog can “test” your boundaries, while you can reassure him that you are there for him. Practicing Doga also has many benefits for you, the Yogi, such as:
A better relationship with your dog
Stroking a pet releases hormones that help with anxiety and depression. Bonding with your dog on a regular basis allows you to unwind, providing room for creativity and curiosity to blossom. Your relationship with your dog is personal and sacred. Doga helps you benefit from that unique relationship to an even greater degree.
Through bonding with your dog, you will become more aware, seeing things as they are in their true form, without judgement. Observe how you conduct yourself next time you are in the park with your dog. Why not use awareness to help others clean up after their dogs, without being judgmental?
Being mindful means living in the moment, with full awareness, without thinking of the past or the future. Like mother-and-baby yoga, Doga focuses our attention on something outside ourselves that we care about. We form a bond through intuition, using sound, massage and breathing techniques to become mindful of our dog. Mindfully stroking your dog may help you detect potentially harmful lumps and bumps that could have gone unnoticed.
Mediation replenishes your central nervous system, helping you sleep and concentrate. It can alleviate anxiety and restores your body. Meditation is the union between the self and the beloved through a state of Thoughtless Awareness, in which we are entirely in the present moment. In Doga we don’t have to meditate for hours to wait for this union to occur; our beloved is there. All we need to do is turn our attention to our dog with an open mind and an open heart. To shower your dog with unconditional love is being in a state of Bliss, which is what we hope to experience with meditation.
An extra weight and prop
Getting your dog involved in your yoga practice means having access to an extra weight or prop. His weight can challenge your strength and endurance, making your muscles work harder, and it can also help to deepen some of the more restorative and counterbalancing poses.
It is best to involve your dog gradually, rather than trying all the poses at once. A relaxed attitude will greatly improve your Doge practice. By ridding yourself of high expectations, you have the power to control whether or not this session will be enjoyable for you and your dog. A good exercise before you start your class is to ask yourself the following questions:
Before each practice, focus on something you’d like to change. For example, if you are ambitious and have a stressful job, make small steps toward creating a more relaxed environment. Allow your dog to walk away of lick your face; embrace the moment by practicing the art of letting go. It’s a simple recipe but letting go is really what Doga is all about.
Relaxing your mind
Below is a preparation exercise you can use if you find it hard to relax your mind:
Ignore your dog for a moment. Sit or lie down in your yoga mat and close your eyes. Ask yourself what you’re feeling right now. Anger? Rage? Sadness? Can you locate the feeling in your body? Place your hand where the feeling is, inhale, the exhale sharply and let that feeling go. Repeat as many times as you need until that feeling has vanished. Remember, your dog will feel your transformation.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:Mahny Djahanguiri is the author of Doga: Yoga for You and Your Dog and a certified yoga teacher. Since 1999, she been teaching and leading international Ashtanga Vinyasa and kid’s yoga workshops in London and Switzerland. More recently, she has developed and taught Doga to enthusiastic classes in the UK and to her clients, who include TV celebrities and musicians. Mahny teaches Doga with her trusted sidekick Robbie – a Maltese terrier who has reached Zen-like yoga abilities. Visit her website at dogamahny.com to learn more.