Do you love both yoga and your dog? The United States is the wellspring of a novelty designed just for you: Doga, that is, yoga for dogs to do with their owners. It’s a great way to spend time with your four-legged buddy, relax and practice wellness together. Want to learn more about this new trend?
Doga came about in Japan some ten years ago, where the first school to start teaching the new discipline was the Japan Dog Association of the Nippon Ayurveda School of Tokyo, and from there it travelled to the United States and, today, it’s the Old Continent’s turn.
The discipline involves specific positions from classical yoga combined with meditation and breathing techniques to be done together with the dog, obviously under the guidance of an instructor and an animal stretching and muscular relaxation expert.
Just like in traditional yoga, the positions you can practice in Doga are many and varied – some hard, others relatively easy. Doga creates a harmony and synchronization of energy flow between the owner and dog.
Here are some of the positions and exercises:
- BREATHING TECHNIQUE. Share your mat with your dog, seeing as being next to you will make him feel safe and at ease. Sit down on the mat with your dog, calm him down and let him hear your breathing while you hear his. Then place your hands gently but firmly on his chest to keep him calm and synchronise your breathing. A few minutes of this is more than enough to get started.
- THE ADHO MUKSHA SVANASANA POSITION, with the dog’s head down. In this exercise we copy the position the dog takes when he stretches out lengthwise, pulling his hips back and lowering his nose to the ground. Our version is with legs stretched out, our body weight on our arms, our heads low.
- THE CHATURANGA POSITION. From a seated position, open and stretch out your legs. Encircle the dog with your legs, the soles of your feet touching. Start massaging the dog until he is standing with his back legs slightly bent. In the meantime you need to try to stretch out your legs, with feet touching at right angles at the heels.
- THE URDVHA MUKSHA SVANASANA POSITION, where the dog has its head up like when he is about to howl. Your legs are out in front of you, your arms up and your head back.
- SUN SALUTATION. Yoga’s most celebrated position in a pet-friendly version calls for the dog to be gently slid over your legs.
- REST POSITION. Get into the rest position, lean your legs, slightly bent, onto your dog’s torso to put a small amount of pressure on his spine.
What benefits can you reap from this new trend in yoga?
1) BODY FIRMING. Stretching and lengthening exercises bring about small changes in your body even right after you’ve done them. They also help with the dog’s muscle tone and improve the elasticity of his joints. Great for young and old dogs alike!
2) RECHARGES THE MIND. Meditation and relaxation exercises help to release internal tension, thus reducing or even eliminating stress. Dogs benefit in much the same way, changing their state of mind, calming even the most agitated or hyperactive of them. It’s great for dogs that live in a crowded environment.
3) IMPROVES THE BOND BETWEEN DOG AND OWNER. By sharing breathing and physical exercise doga contributes to developing the empathetic relationship between the animal and the human, thus increasing affinity and improving the bond between the two.
A normal session usually lasts about 45 minutes, the first part being a Mantra, followed by 4 or 5 exercises for the human as the dog lies peacefully on the mat beside him or her. Then there is the shared breathing phase in which the owner places a hand on the dog’s chest to synchronise the breathing, followed by stretching exercises done together with the dog, and then a final Mantra during which to relax and meditate.
September is the month of new beginnings, and if you feel like trying your hand at a new activity, perhaps even with your dog, the time is now!