This article is contributed by guest writer, @Dakota_Murphey.
Doga – Can you really do yoga with your dog?
One of the main reasons why having a pet dog is such a wonderfully rewarding experience is that you can have fun together. Dogs love being active, and they also love to please. With some guidance and oodles of patience, you can train your canine companion to do all sorts of activities. From hiking and swimming to surfing and even yoga, there are many experiences you can enjoy alongside your four-legged friend.
Yes, even yoga. Or should I say ‘doga?’
What is Doga?
Doga is a relatively new trend in physical fitness – some would say a fad – which combines regular yoga practice and spending time with your pet. Originally called ‘Ruff Yoga,’ the concept was created by American yoga teacher Suzi Teitelman back in 2001 after her cocker spaniel kept getting on her yoga mat “and doga happened.”
Since then, dog yoga has taken the world by storm and there are now doga classes held across the globe – and probably at a venue near you. So, what’s the big idea?
Doga is essentially a human yoga practice but one that is specifically designed to be a sharing, nurturing and bonding experience between you and your pooch. As one leading dog yoga teacher puts it, “doga is the sacred union between dog and owner.”
Although you couldn’t possibly expect a dog to be able to perform the majority of traditional yoga poses, they may try to copy what you do to the best of their abilities and will certainly enjoy the yogic stretching, elements of pet massage and absorb the relaxing and calming energy that yoga sessions are famous for.
Doing yoga with your dog is a great way to get some exercise for both you and your four-legged pal, and should be a fun activity you can enjoy together. In fact, it could be the best thing for both of you.
Physical Health Benefits
Research has shown that dog owners are healthier than people who don’t have a dog. The health benefits are more pronounced among older generations with more sedate lifestyles. According to researchers from Glasgow Caledonian University, the average elderly dog owner gets an extra 22 minutes of exercise per day from dog walking, which is sufficient to meet the 150 minutes of moderate physical activity per week that the World Health Organisation recommends for adults.
What’s more, if your canine companion is overweight and could do with a bit more exercise, regular doga sessions can be an excellent way to lose fat, build stamina and strength. Dogs have a natural instinct to stretch, which can help them to improve their flexibility and prevent age related conditions such as ACL injuries, arthritis, hip dysplasia and other chronic pain issues.
Bonding with Your Dog
The health benefit of yoga for humans is beyond reproach. It’s been scientifically proven to be one of the best things you can do for your body and mind. While there’s not much research about the benefits of yoga on dogs, one thing becomes immediately obvious when you watch a doga session in progress.
Doga is a great way to strengthen the bond between you and your pooch. The relaxation and deep focus required from both parties will, over time, help you connect on a deeper and more authentic level than ever before. Especially when you do assisted poses where you and your dog have to work in partnership, the bond of trust between you grows and deepens in the most beautiful way.
Stress Relief and Relaxation
Relaxation and breathing exercises are one of the mainstays of any doga session and can work wonders to calm down hyperactive and stressed out doggies. While the active exercise component of the class will help to burn some calories, stretching and dog massage is designed for stress relief. Of course, the above doesn’t only affect your canine yoga partner, the mental health benefits of releasing stress and anxiety will also apply to you.
Dog yoga is also an excellent way for dealing with pets that may have behavioural issues. Anxious, yappy dogs will soon learn to become relaxed and lie still – though it may take a while to get the results you’re after. Be patient and make doga a regular part of your schedule for at least a month.
Entertainment and Socialization
While doing yoga on your own is an enjoyable and rewarding experience, adding your pooch into the mix is sure to up the fun factor multiple times. Of course, your four-legged friend may be more interested in sniffing around to see what you’re doing and distracting you rather than getting ‘into the zone’ but that’s OK. It helps you keep a sense of humor and perspective and stops you from focusing too hard on your asana. Yoga isn’t about perfection; it’s about being in the moment.
If you take your dog to a doga class, there will of course be other four-legged participants there. It’s a great way to meet new people and their dogs and to make friends, especially if you and/or your dog are wary of strangers. Being surrounded by other pups in a controlled and soothing environment can be the ideal way to get him used to being in the company of other dogs and humans and provide just the socialization he needs.