Monday, January 27, 2014

Why Do Yoga with Your Dog?

Why Should Pet Owners Practice Yoga (Doga) with their dogs? 

First of all, it’s fun!  There is nothing better than sharing calm, gentle moments with your dog, it reinforces the pack bond and encourages us to be present in the moment guided by our dogs, who live there all the time.

The physical poses (asanas) practiced in a Doga class are beneficial to the human - flexibility, balance, emotional stability are increased through breath awareness, yoga postures and deep relaxation.  Doga instructor Kari Harendorf  links yoga to reductions in stress hormones, like cortisol, and blood pressure. “People always ask me, ‘Do dogs need yoga?’ she said. “I say, No, you need yoga. But your dog needs your attention, and bonding with your pet is good for your health.’ 

A little know statistic released in 2009 by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention suggests that, on average, an estimated 86,629 Americans receive emergency room treatment each year for fall-related injuries associated with a pet dog or cat.  Emergency room doctors said fall-related injuries can also occur outside the home, specifically while owners are walking their dogs. 

Idaho-based veterinarian Marty Becker said that he, too, has seen the ravages of pet-related fall in his practice. While most of his patients are dogs and cats who have sustained fractures from being tripped over or stepped upon, they are often accompanied by owners who are nursing their own injuries from the encounter.

So, What better way to improve balance and awareness of our environment than a regular yoga practice? 

Doga combines massage and meditation with gentle stretching for dogs and their human partners. Dogs are not manipulated into poses, they are encouraged to join in with their own method of interaction and benefit from the relaxing massage techniques.  Humans do traditional yoga poses – yes, including “downward facing dog” – while staying in contact physically with their pets. 

Were it not for their pets, many people would never take daily walks in the park. By extension, it’s easy to see how taking your dog to Doga may be a surefire way to make certain you do yoga yourself.

Doga enthusiasts argue that the practice emphasizes yoga's focus on union between beings, helps establish a pack mentality, strengthens the bond between owner and pet.  Doga can also provide a great source of entertainment for class participants.

By the end of a Doga class, canine participants may be passed out on their mats next to their relaxed human, in a position their instructor calls the “upward facing belly pose.

In a recent class at Cobber’s Pet Pantry in Enunclaw, WA, Doga Instructor, Maryellen Elcock,  noted  “there are not many places you can walk into a room and see nine humans on their backs in final relaxation pose with nine dogs at their side in the same state of mind, it is magic. Only in moments of complete relaxation that we can heal at all levels so I consider this a healing practice for dogs and their human companions.”

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