Doga = Yoga With Your Dog. It’s a Thing, And You Should Try It!
In today’s fast-paced world, Yoga is an integral part of many people’s lifestyles and routines. It’s an activity that holds many benefits and can be picked up at any skill level. It can be done alone or in group, indoors or out. Wherever you can lay down your yoga mat, you can practice this ancient discipline.
Such is the flexibility of yoga and its wide range of expressions, that it gained forms unimagined to its founding yogis.
Yoga has many positions such as the cat pose (Marjaryasana) and the downward-facing dog (Adho Mukha Svanasana). So when you think of it, it makes perfect sense that yoga practice would eventually incorporate animals and become a hot trend.
Goat yoga, butterfly yoga, rabbit yoga, baby pig, and llama yoga are the most extravagant (but real!) expressions of yoga with animals. But for this article, we’ll dive into Dog Yoga, or Doga: What it is, what are the benefits, and how to do it.
What is Yoga
Yoga is a spiritual discipline that focuses on finding harmony between the body and mind. It’s believed to have originated in Northern India, nearly 5,000 years ago. The first mentions of Yoga were found in The Vedas, a collection of poems and hymns conforming to four sacred texts written in Sanskrit, the ancient Indo-European language of India.
This age-old spiritual practice and tradition has evolved greatly into our Western culture since it arrived at the hands of Swami Vivekananda (1863–1902). The Indian spiritual leader is said to have introduced yoga as a “science of mind”, doing an impressive logistic demonstration to the dazzled spectators of the 1893 Chicago World Fair.
A wide spectrum of schools and yoga traditions have since spread around the world but the bases remain the same: balancing the flow of energy within the body and mind using breathing, meditation, and movement.
The practice of yoga involves focusing on one’s breathing and adopting different positions through patterns of movement. Of varying levels of tradition, yoga is today practiced by babies, children, elders, men, women, and non-binary individuals from all walks of life.
What is Dog Yoga
Dog Yoga, AKA Doga, is sharing the practice of yoga with your dog. The level of your dog’s engagement may vary from actively participating in yoga poses to simply keeping you company while you strike a yoga pose. You and your dog may have already been deep into doga practice without even knowing it.
Doga can also be practiced in a group Doga class, where you can bring your pet along and share the experience with other pet owners and their pets. It can be easily adapted to each dog’s characteristics and personality. Though, it’s important not to push it. Just let your dog be themselves.
The Chakras: The Main Energy Centers
Yoga aims at balancing the flow of energy and finding harmony between the body and mind. This is achieved through the recognition of the seven chakras which are believed to be the main energy centers we have in our bodies. These energy centers extend from the base of our spine toward the top of our head.
In the practice of yoga the seven energy centers, or chakras, correspond to different body parts. In the age-old yoga tradition, these chakras are given a spiritual meaning, believed to be a part of our “celestial body” extending beyond our physical presence. Interestingly enough, many scientists have argued that these chakras correspond to actual spine bundles (plexuses) that are found in our nervous system.
Our seven main chakras, beginning from the root found at the sacrum at the base of the spine, are the Root Chakra (Muladhara), Sacral Chakra (Svadhisthana), Solar Plexus Chakra (Svadhisthana), Heart Chakra (Anahata), Throat Chakra (Vishuddha), Third Eye Chakra (Ajna), and the Crown Chakra (Sahasrara).
The Yogi Pooch: The Nine Chakra Centers Present in Dogs
If we humans have seven chakras or energy centers, do our most treasured pet companions have them too?
Though no empirical facts have confirmed animals also have energy centers, or chakras, many animal yoga practitioners and animal communicators believe it’s likely they do.
Dogs possibly share the same seven chakras as us humans, with additional chakras that are unique to their species. A consensus is yet to be made as to what these additional chakras are, but they likely include the ear, nose, paw, and tail chakras.
Doga practice provides many health benefits for pets and their pet parent. As you’ll read further on, we pet owners are extremely lucky to have our beloved pooches in our lives to inspire us to be healthy and mind our wellness.
Health Benefits for Pooch and Their Human
Fido doesn’t need to become a yoga enthusiast to enjoy the benefits of the doga practice. Following is a list of noteworthy health benefits provided to both pet parents and pets.
Relaxes Pet and their Parent: Doga involves a lot of deep breathing and meditation. This takes the pet owner into a state of relaxation which pets tend to pick up on. So, they’ll often quiet down and relax themselves. Doga is a great practice for pet parents with hyperactive dogs. These jumpy pups may even consider doga as playtime, which raises their levels of serotonin and dopamine, naturally calming them down.
Provides a Mental Stimulation: As you interact with your dog and teach them doga poses you’re providing them with mental stimulation. This is highly beneficial for dogs of all ages and can help maintain your dog’s cognition as they age, making them sharper and more receptive to learning new commands.
Improves Pet Behavior: Doga is an activity shared with your fluffy companion. For them, this means having your much sought-after attention. This could positively impact your dog’s behavior, as they’ll feel their importance and perceive your true love.
Helps Develop a Deeper Bond: Many doga exercises involve petting and holding your dog close to you. These exercises deepen your bond with them, providing benefits for both you and your dog. Bonding with pets is proven to improve mental health and stimulate an overall state of well-being within the pet owner.
Promotes Socialization: If done within the setting of a doga class it can help socialize your dog and get them used to being around other dogs. A doga class is a setting that transmits much peace and focus, allowing the pet to feel secure and relaxed around other people and their pets.
Builds Trust During Paw and Ear Cleaning and Promotes Health Checks: In doga practice, you’re encouraged to handle your dog while coaching them through the positions. This gradually and peacefully builds trust, allowing for paw trimmings and ear cleaning to run smoothly. Doing this regularly also gets you in the habit of checking your dog’s health, promoting early detection of lumps or anything unusual on their skin.
How to Practice Doga
There are two main ways in which yoga is practiced: You either coach your dog into the doga positions, or you allow them to be near while you do your yoga routine. Both approaches have the same benefits.
For the most part, doga is a bonding experience for you and your pooch. But if you’re wondering how to get your dog to do doga, here are some steps you can take.
Step 1: Give Your Pup a Yoga Demonstration
A good way to get your dog started with yoga is to give them a demonstration. Show them any of the animal-inspired positions that they understand. The downward-facing dog and the puppy pose are two examples. Do this while they’re in a setting familiar to them. If you do it during play time or walk time, you’ll help them make a positive association with it.
Step 2: Use Pooch as a Weight Lift
If you want your dog to join in the practice and you happen to have a small dog or a puppy, you can easily incorporate them as a weight lift. This will help you train your muscle’s resistance while bonding with your dog and building trust. Just make sure they’re safe and comfortable with it.
Step 3: At Home Practice
Before taking your dog to a doga class, it’s a good idea to practice at home. You don’t need much, just a mat, a space, and your dog. Put on some peaceful music and you’re off to the land of yoga bliss with poochie at your side! It’s also good to test yoga waters with your dog before venturing to a doga class.
Step 4: Take Your Dog To Yoga Class
If you and your dog enjoyed the at-home yoga practice, you may be ready to enroll in a doga class. Before doing so, keep in mind that some classes only allow certain sizes of dogs. Some are puppies only. Make sure you know all of the details before enrolling. If your dog is hyperactive, take a chew toy for them to nibble on.
Let your dog be themselves and engage with the activity as much as they want. If they just want to hang around and socialize, let them be. Don’t force them to do all of the positions if it’s not their cup of tea. Never force them onto a position they may feel resistance to. If you notice this, don’t continue. Your dog should go at their own pace.
Doga Poses To Try at Home
By now you may be eager to salute the sun with your fluffy ball of wisdom! Here are six easy-to-do doga poses for you to try with your Rover. Remember that patience is persistence, and when it comes to doga, the path of no resistance is the way to go. Some of these poses are for humans, others for pets, and some for humans and pets together.
Heart to Hound Mudra
This is a very simple pose that promotes energy transfer between you and your pooch.
Sit cross-legged in front or behind your dog who is seated.
Place one hand over your heart, and the other over your dog’s heart.
Close your eyes, breathe deeply, and feel the transfer of positive energy.
This pose is usually done as a transition to “Upward Facing”. It’s a position that you do while your dog lays flat on the floor while you pet their back.
Begin with a high plank, with your shoulders stacked above your wrists.
Hug your elbows to the side of your body.
Shift forward on your toes and slowly use your arms to lower your body to the mat.
Once your shoulders are in line with your elbow.
Upward Facing Dog
Thisdog-inspired yoga pose opens up our chest and ab muscles, strengthening shoulders, triceps, forearms, and lower back, which does all the work. As for your dog, they just hang around and do their version of it if they feel like it.
Begin face-down on the floor.
Extend your feet behind you with the tops facing the mat, slightly elevating your legs from the floor.
Place your palms next to your hips and push your upper body off the mat, stretching your back with your arms straightened.
Puppy Paw Mudra
This pose is great for building trust with your puppy! It’s a stretching pose that benefits the spine, shoulders, upper back, and arms. All your pup needs to do is stay on the ground in front of you and enjoy bonding time.
Kneel in front of your dog who is lying in front of you, paws forward.
Kneel back on your heels with your legs together.
Kneel over your dog, extending your arms around them.
Turn your head from side to side as you bond with your puppy.
Animal lovers and pet parents know that the presence of animals adds much enjoyment to most activities. Our pets contribute to our emotional well-being and comfort. Emotional support dogs, and equine therapy horses testify to an animal’s positive influence on our mental health.
Practicing yoga with your dog consistently will build a habit that promotes well-being and mindfulness for you and your dog. It promotes a healthy lifestyle that provides many benefits in the short and long term.
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