Every time I roll out my mat to do my home practice, there he is…my best furry friend Tonka is always right there beside me, tail wagging with uncontrollable excitement as he circles around me, eager to participate. And as I begin to move through my practice, his excitement turns to calm and he always ends up flopped down at the top of my mat staring at me with his big brown puppy dog eyes. It’s as if he has begun to tap into the energy of my practice…my sense of calm and centeredness becomes his sense of calm. When I think about it, this makes total sense. Animals are very sensitive to our energies and can feel when we are relaxed and at peace. And since our pets are some of the most important friends in our lives, why not begin to include them in our yoga practice and let them enjoy the benefits too?
Yoga is about connection. The word yoga means to unite, and so when we do our practice with our pets we can think of it as creating a deeper bond or connection with them. Unlike a typical yoga practice where you are focusing on your breath and alignment, doga is a more of an organic practice where you can feel free to move around the dog as you don’t have to feel that you are perfectly aligned. Modifications are welcomed and often necessary depending on the size and energy level of your dog. It is not so much the pose as it is the connection that counts.
Try this simple doga practice to show your love and deepen your connection to your dog:
- Find a comfortable cross-legged seat on your mat with eyes closed and hands together at your heart.
- Allow yourself to breathe slowly and deeply…your dog will probably naturally come to rest near you
- Encourage your dog to lie down on the mat in front of you so you can begin to fold over them finding a nice stretch for your hips and giving your pet some love and gentle rubs
- Eventually come in to table position, knees hip width apart and shoulders over wrists with your pet lying on the mat under your belly.
- Move through three to five rounds of cat and cow, alternately lowering the belly and lifting the heart and sits bones before you press into the hands and round out through the spine in a cat stretch.
- Curl your toes under and press into the hands to lift the hips and come into downward facing dog (ironic, I know), perhaps resting your head on your dog, depending on the size. Stay for five breaths.
- Slowly walk your feet towards your hands where you will eventually end up in a gentle forward fold. Give your pooch some love as you pet them, maybe giving a gentle massage
- Bend your knees to come into a bit of a squat with feet hip width apart and place your hands under their shoulders (you should both be facing the same way).
- Lift your dogs two front paws off the mat and press into your heels so you can lift them up to standing (bend the knees more with larger dogs to protect your low back). Their front legs will be lifted as their hind legs connect them to the mat. This is butterfly pose for your pooch…try staying for five breaths before you gently lower them down.
- Give your dog lots of love and rubs before repeating the entire sequence. Let them feel you breath deeply and enjoy the sense of calm that connects you both.
Doga is a practice of connection…first we connect to our dogs, but as we bond with our furry friends, the unconditional love we receive in return eventually shows us how to connect back in to the best parts of ourselves. Really, what more could you ask for?
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Adrienne Kelly-Durys is a Certified Nutritional Practitioner, 500Hr RYT and lover of feeling good in mind and body. She teaches Yoga and wellness classes at Balanced Life Yoga and specializes in detoxing and nourishment. Classes include Power Hour Yoga, Power Yoga Vibe, and Holistic Nutritional Consulting.