Try yoga with your dog – otherwise known as ‘doga’

TO GO WITH HongKong-lifestyle-animal-yoga-offbeat,FEATURE by Judith Evans
This picture taken on October 8, 2011 shows yoga instructor Suzette Ackermann (2nd L) and students taking part in a "doga" class, a yoga class for dogs, at a studio in Hong Kong. Hong Kong's pampered canines may have their own spas complete with jacuzzis and massage, but it can still be difficult for a dog to find inner peace. Each Saturday morning in the city's Sheung Wan district, owners massage their pets before bringing them into postures such as the cobra pose, in which the hind legs are stretched out to the rear, as soothing music plays.     AFP PHOTO / Dale de la Rey (Photo credit should read DALE de la REY/AFP/Getty Images)

Happiness in a four-letter word: DOGA. It’s precisely what you imagine; letting your canine chum lead you into a down-faced dog as only he/she knows how, and it’s guaranteed to leave you with hairs on your leggings and smile on your face, says Lucille Howe.

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Any owner of a furry, four-legged friend will tell you that life is better for having them around… aside from the time they ate your left flip-flop and wee’d on your duvet, that is.

According to studies, dog owners are less likely to suffer from depression, have lower triglyceride and cholesterol levels (indicators of heart disease) higher levels of serotonin and dopamine, which calm and relax, and that owners over the age of 65 made 30% less visits to the doctors than their dog-free counterparts.

In fact, dogs are so attuned to our non-verbal methods of communication, like voice tone and body language, that we connect with them on a deeper level. So, it was perhaps inevitable that we’d forgo the guilt of leaving our best friends at home and invite them to join us for a new variation of mindfulness on the matt – DOGA.

Dog yoga - Lucille Howe

Yogaforce in California noticed that a lot of poses in yoga are named after animals. Take, the Eagle, Pigeon and Cat Stretch. So, they decided to launch a DOGA class, not intended to train your mutt, but give you guys a chance to bond.

At Downward Doggies in Australia, instructor, Hannah Reed, uses massage on pressure points to improve circulation and calm her hairy students.

Over the water, at Dogamahny, in London, classes run at 90 minutes a time and I decide to take my dog, Buckley, to a ‘Taster and Sniffer’ session before I commit to a whole six-week shebang.
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Dog yoga

Buckley is a 60kg, Greater Swiss Mountain Dog, so I’m fairly worried about having her lie on me while I’m in Cobra and putting my back out, but luckily it doesn’t come to that. Small dogs are used as weights for warrior while I lie close to Buckley and synchronise our breathing and heart rate. Big dogs can be used as the equivalent of those rectangular bolsters too, which comes in handy when I move into the side stretch known as Trikonasana.

Chanting ‘Om’ leaves Buckley cold and performing bridge pose over the top of her resting lump seems to annoy her, and she moves to find her own matt.

Still, teacher Mayny Djahanguiri is patient, and creative at adapting exercises, and the main thing is we all have fun. If we want to go next level mutt master then there is hundred-hour teacher training available but for the time being my happy hormones are raging and Buckley looks ready to nap. ‘Namaste’, ladies.
Doga by Mahny Djahanguiri is available online at Amazon.

Dog yoga

Photos by Getty Images and Mike Tinnion (grey bulldog) and Taylor Bryant (black lab) on Unsplash