If the phrase “dog yoga” brings to mind a calendar image of a golden retriever holding an adorable but unlikely yoga pose, think again. Combining dogs and yoga for a “doga” session integrates the centuries-old Hindu discipline of meditation, stretching, and breathing with a canine companion who is treated to massage, manipulation of his body for healthful stretching of his muscles, and quality bonding time.
Doga has gained traction in yoga studios across the country, shifting the emphasis from its sometimes intense mental and physical focus to an activity in which your dog is tucked into modified yoga positions, sometimes in sync with your own poses and sometimes solely for his benefit. But you don’t need to go to a studio; you can practice doga at home, too. Best of all is that both people and dogs of all shapes, sizes, and physical conditions can benefit in some way from doga — as long as you don’t expect the exact vigorous experience you would get by yourself.
Comfortable attire, a yoga mat, a yoga towel for over the mat to help you stay in place, a leash, treats, and a toy are all you and your dog will need for your session. A number of asanas, or poses, will be modified from traditional poses so that they are doable for you and your pet together. For example, you can incorporate your dog into movements such as the Warrior Two pose. Normally, you would have both arms outstretched, with one forward and the other back, while holding a lunging-forward position with one leg as you hold the other leg extended behind you. With the modified version, you would balance your dog on your front leg.
Adjusting the yoga to the dog
While it’s true that dogs of any size can participate in doga, smaller dogs are easiest since they can be put on your body in a side bend or some other position. But larger dogs can also be held for certain positions, such as on your lap in a tilting-back position for the Reclining Boat pose.
Less mobile dogs, such as those with hip dysplasia or arthritis, can be helped into various positions once you have smoothed out their muscles with gentle stretching and massage. But even without the yoga poses, your dog will benefit from all the soothing attention and gentle movements, combined with a greater connection to you thanks to the one-on-one time.