Doga – dog yoga – and the benefits

Getting bored with your usual walk in the park with your pooch? Looking for something a bit more stimulating than throwing a ball for your furry companion? Doga teacher, Mahny Djahanguiri explains why dog yoga is the perfect way to bond with your dog and look after their health.

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I translate doga as human yoga with your dog. It is not at all about forcing dogs into yoga poses, which is something I would never do. It helps create a unique bond between you and your dog, combining meditation, gentle massage and stretching, as well as incorporating canine acupuncture and chanting.

The class will start with the dogs sniffing around and getting to know each other. While this is going on I encourage the owners to get settled and start relaxing straight away, ignoring their roaming dogs. Once the breathing, meditating and chanting starts this is when the dogs stop what they are doing and the doga really begins. The dogs sense the calm in the room and will slowly walk to their owners or even someone else. They may just sit down, or if their owner is in the downward dog position they might walk underneath them. The key is to involve the dog but not be distracted by them and to focus on your breathing.

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My dog can bend backwards and I will often lift him up during certain poses like a weight. However my doga classes are mainly about massaging, acupuncture and touching them in a way that is natural to them and you. If it doesn’t feel right to lift them or stretch them, then there are alternative actions. Yes there are a couple of stretches but I never encourage the owners to force it and often it just feels intuitive. I find that owners know without asking just what to do with their dogs.

Doga offers so many benefits for both humans and dogs. Doga helps to relax the nervous system for both the owner and dog; it is a bit like what happens between mothers and babies when they do Mummy and Baby yoga. By the end of the class you will find that your dog is relaxed, just chilling out next to you or on top of you. It also helps regulate their digestive system and helps them get better sleep.

It is perfect if your dog has behavioural issues. I am a certified adult and children’s yoga teacher, and was inspired to go into doga because of my work with the charity, Kids Company, where I was working with vulnerable and neglected children. I found, that just like dogs, children with behavioural issues responded to doga as it helps them understand stillness. If you have a yappy or anxious dog these classes are perfect – although don’t expect results straight away. Like humans it takes 4-6 weeks to have an effect and try to keep it regular for the dog and yourself so that you have that special time.

I find teaching doga more relaxing than yoga. People who try doga seem to really love the fact that their dog is going to come up to them and give them a nuzzle while they are in the downward dog or that they can give them a belly rub with their nose.

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Size isn’t an issue when it comes to doga. The whole idea is that you work around the dog and adapt your yoga to their size. If you have a Great Dane then you do the camel pose over them; or they may just fall asleep at your heels which means you adapt by doing a little massage on them or some non-invasive stretching. It is so much more exciting to have big and small dogs together in the class.

What I would say to those who think this is a fad, try it for yourself. For a lot of people they find yoga strange and hard to understand, so throw a dog into the mix and doga is even more obscure. Doga can’t really be explained until you have experienced some form of yoga or doga class – it is bonding with nature and how do you explain that?

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