Downward Dog is no longer something that only humans do during their yoga practice! Finally, the position’s namesake can join in with their person and get their Zen on. It’s called doga – a cute combination of the words “dog” and “yoga” – and it has been gaining in popularity over the past few years. Created in 2002 in New York City by yoga instructor Suzi Teitleman, doga is a great way for people to bond with their precious dogs while both parties enjoy some stretching and relaxation.
It may sound strange and over-the-top to some, but doga is really all about people spending time with their four-legged friends. The focus and attention is on the dog for this pet friendly activity – many poses can be done with the dogs or the dogs can be gentle props while their humans transition into different poses.
In addition to the stretching, many classes also include massage techniques that people can perform on their dogs to help aid in digestion and lower blood pressure. The dogs may decide to just wander around the studio during the class and that’s okay, too. Dogs of all sizes and energy levels are encouraged to participate. In many classes, doga is also about socialization with other dogs and class usually concludes with playtime for the dogs while the humans can chit chat.
Doga has been cited by some enthusiasts to help combat behaviors such as anxiety around strangers.
There is currently no official certification for doga. Classes are taught by certified yoga instructors who have also decided to extend their teachings to doga, so not all classes are alike – other than spending quality time with the dogs. Some doga classes start in a group circle with everyone on their mats and begin with breathing exercises; the goal is for the dogs to hone in on the calm energy of the room. During the practice, humans can try to put their dogs into some stretches but nothing is forced; the atmosphere is very relaxed. There is a lot of deep breathing, slow movements, and quiet interaction. Some dogs just prefer to hang out on the mats. While their people are in poses, the dogs’ bellies are rubbed and their backs are stroked.
There are also doga classes where dogs are trained to execute poses in exchange for treats. Since there is no regulation, the quality and content can vary from class to class.
As the story usually goes, most classes are offered in metropolitan areas and you may be hard pressed to find a doga class if you live in a more rural place. If there are no classes close to you, there are plenty of other ways to practice it at home. Plenty of books and DVDs on the subject are available, as well as information and videos online. They provide instructions on how to incorporate your dog in different poses, as well as massaging and acupressure techniques to perform on your furry one. All you need is your mat and a space to lay it (and of course your dog).