They have a lot to teach us about calming the mind, cultivating loving-kindness, and noticing the beauty in our lives and our hearts. I remember meditating with my mother in the mornings when I was growing up. Slowly and quietly, the dogs (she has three) would gravitate into the room and sit or lie down by our side. Usually rambunctious and playful, they could sense our energy and notice that it was time for quiet and stillness and just rest with us.
We all know about the core yogic poses inspired by our canine companions: Adho Mukha Svanasana (Downward Facing Dog), and Urdvha Mukha Svanasana (Upward Facing Dog)... But yoga with your dog?
Yoga with your dog, aka “Doga,” is one of the newest, strangest trends in yogic practice, and it’s gaining worldwide recognition. It all started in 2011, with a woman named Suzi Teitelman Arab.
On her website, Teitelman states that Doga is simply “about sharing your yoga practice with your pet.” She considers it to be a form of partner yoga. It is about connecting to your dual breathing and being present together. When Suzi began Doga, she was the director of yoga at Crunch Fitness. She began teaching doga privately and at her studios after becoming inspired by her cocker spaniel, Coali, who liked to join Suzi on her mat at home. It began organically, and soon Suzi started to write a sequence that she and Coali could share. She now lives with her three dogs in Jacksonville Beach, Florida, and continues to teach Doga privately and in online classes.
Doga, like yoga, is more about the inner experience than it is about getting the poses right. The practice involves massage, meditation, stretching, and relaxation techniques. Some poses include Chaturanga, in which the dog lies on their stomach and their human strokes their back; Utkatasana, in which the dog sits on their hind legs and raises their front paws as their human holds them from behind; and Savasana, where the pup will lie on their back and their human companion will rub their belly. It may not seem like much, but sharing these experiences with your pup is mutually beneficial in numerous ways, including lowering blood pressure and decreasing anxiety. Even if your dog isn’t particularly interested in doing the poses, just being around your dog can have an incredible effect on your health and state of mind.
Since its creation, Doga has caught on with many practitioners around the world. In January 2016, a record-breaking number of yogis gathered in Hong Kong to practice with their furry pals for 60 minute sessions, and just a year earlier a similar session was held in San Diego. Doga practitioners believe that the practice improves their dog’s health, and they feel that it builds a stronger bond between them and their pets.
Dogs are naturally inclined to a lot of the fundamentals of yogic practice. For one, dogs are fully present in each moment. They are incredibly receptive, patient, and have a lot to teach us about letting go. They are so naturally in-tune with their bodies and breath that they are able to act in a selfless manner. Just like yogis, however, to stay in-tune with their bodies, dogs need a healthy foundation for practice. This comes with a nutritional diet. ORGANIX®, the leader in organic dog food, is focused on providing complete and balanced recipes with organic ingredients free from chemical pesticides, synthetic fertilizers, artificial preservatives, antibiotics and added growth hormones. Feeding your dog all of the good stuff keeps their bodies in-tune to focus on a fulfilling practice.
Practicing with your dog is primarily about setting an intention, and taking time to tune in with yourself and those that you love. Reading them and learning what is right for them is what’s most important. Suzi believes that “all of us have an innate truth and calmness within us. Dogs find it easier than we do.” Receptivity to energy and breath is a beautiful practice, and dogs are naturals at it.