Published in City Living
(c) Pacific Publishing Company
November 9, 2011
By Christie Lagally
Health and wellness for your dog often consists of a few well-defined things. Good food, fresh water, plenty of exercise, proper veterinary care and something really good to chew on tend to be the basic requirements indicated by canine professionals.
But many dog owners know there is another vital component necessary for canine well-being: a strong, safe connection to a pack or family.
That human-canine connection and bonding is what Brenda Bryan was working toward when she developed dog yoga (or Doga) in collaboration with the Seattle Humane Society a few years ago.
As a longtime yoga teacher and licensed massage therapist, Bryan describes this special style of yoga, which she calls “Barking Buddha,” as a “heart-opening practice for human and dog, allowing for time to develop a deep connection with each other.”
A calming effect
Doga is partner yoga with a very special, furry partner. Doga consists of poses such as Woofing Warrior, Pit-to-Paw Standing Twist and Canine Crunches, to name a few that engage both person and dog.
Dogs of all shapes and sizes are welcome, including those you might think would have difficultly staying on the mat for the length of class. Frequently, owners voice concern that their dog is not calm enough to attend a yoga class. Yet, Bryan said that the very practice of Doga often calms these sorts of dogs.
While Doga might be a bit unnerving at first, most dogs come to really enjoy the experience. Even dogs that are less-than-perfect with other dogs can benefit from the class. Bryan allows these “dogis” a little extra space away from other classmates so dog and owner feel comfortable and safe. In fact, many owners report their dog is eager to come to Doga class the next time around.
From Chicago to New York and Santa Barbara, Calif., dog yoga has popped up as a phenomenon in cities across the United States over the last few years. Most recently, a studio in the Sheung Wan district of Hong Kong began offering Doga, so it is not just in the United States where people are looking for a new way to connect with their canine friends. Many Doga practitioners remind us that dogs have been doing a kind of yoga, specifically Downward Dog pose, for eons and many of the Doga poses come naturally to dogs.
Even yoga-mat companies have become hip to the trend by offering yoga mats with dog (and cat) paw prints, but, of course, the mats are good for any yoga class.
As Seattleites, we are lucky to have Doga classes close by. Bryan teaches Doga at the Seattle Humane Society once a month ( seattlehumane.org). Spokesperson Joyce Zoldak said that the Seattle Humane Society began offering the Doga classes because they felt it would be a fun and relaxing activity that is good for owners as well as their dogs.
“The dogs love it just as much as the owners,” Zoldak said of the positive feedback she gets from the human Doga attendees.
Seattle Humane Society Doga classes are open to the public. Bryan said that dogs recently adopted may particularly benefit from Doga as they learn to bond with their new caretakers.
Doga classes are also offered at the Ginomai Community Center in West Seattle on alternating Saturdays. See the Barking Buddha blog at dogyogablog.com for more information.
In addition, a book or video about Doga can help you get started at home. Bryan’s book, “Barking Buddha: Simple Soul Stretches for Yogi and Dogi,” is available through Amazon or at the Seattle Public Library.
Because of the recent popularity of Doga, videos can be found on-line, as well.
CHRISTIE LAGALLY is a freelance pet columnist who manages the website “Sniffing Out Home: A Search for Animal Welfare Solutions” at http://www.sniffingouthome.org.