Downward Dog with a "Dogi" of Yoga!

A few days ago, walking the dogs (of course), I happened to walk by a newly opened yoga studio (is it me, or do they seem to keeping pace with new Starbucks openings?) and saw that in addition to regular yoga, they also offered something called “doga:” that’s right,  yoga WITH YOUR DOG! Say whaaaa?

I immediately called Anne Appleby, Yoga Teacher and Founder of YogaForce (and of course, friend of earthbath), who also happens to be a Doga pioneer, for more information.

I asked Anne: How on earth did you get involved with Doga? What IS Doga??

She answered: “I’ve been practicing yoga since the late 80s, when yoga was nowhere near the craze it is now in the United States. I became addicted to yoga after taking some lunchtime yoga classes on the lot of Paramount Pictures where I used to work – in a very ‘Type-A’ environment, as you can imagine!” Anne has been teaching yoga privately and in many locations around the Bay Area since 1997, but a small 8 pound fluffball that entered her life at Christmas in 2009 changed her approach to yoga in a way she could never have anticipated.

When Anne practiced yoga at home, she noticed that Madison started becoming a constant presence on her yoga mat. “When I did downward dog, Madison did downward dog! I thought: so many of my clients also have dogs, this can’t just be unique to me and my dog.  There has to be a way to integrate dogs into the practice of yoga.”

If you think about it, many yoga poses are inspired by the postures and poses that animals naturally do: watch your dog go into a playful downward dog the next time he’s trying to entice you to play a game of chase, or languidly stretch into upward dog after just waking up.

As a yoga practitioner myself, who is also a “mom” to two very energetic, fluffy 50+ pound dogs, I simply could not conceptualize how I could integrate one or both of my dogs into my yoga practice without becoming entirely distracted and likely giving up entirely to their inevitable pleas to stop already! and take them for a walk.

When I asked Anne about this, she said that most dogs seem to take right to the practice. And those that are hyper in the beginning calm down by the end of class and she said that she’s noticed a marked difference in these dogs’ demeanor over time. “Bonding is all about eye contact; you’ll have a much stronger bond with your dog after practicing doga together.”

Anne also mentioned the health benefits to dogs: “Doga is great for dogs with arthritis and joint problems like dysplasia because of the gentle stretching on their joints.” She went on: “In doga you become really attuned to your dog and what poses he likes and those he really doesn’t want to do. Never force your dog into a pose your dog doesn’t like – they will squirm out of it, so you’ll know not to do that one again!”

I still feel dubious. How could I wrangle my obstinate chow chow into a yoga pose?! One pose she suggested I try, since all dogs seem to love it, regardless of size, is a modified child’s pose, which she calls “Cave Pose.”

Sit on your shins with your knees spread wide, and your feet together and pointed behind you, have your dog down in front of you, and then simply wrap yourself around your dog, giving him a kind of hug, as you descend to the floor, as you would in child’s pose.

Okay. Though I didn’t have high hopes for my “partner,” I tried “cave pose” that night with my Bunny (pictured at the end of this post). She actually managed to sit still for a minute… and then she licked my face as I folded into the forward bend. I started laughing, which is not a normal part of my yoga practice (unless I’m falling out of a balance pose).

Yet, laughter is something everyone needs a little bit more of each day. Whether or not we take it to the next (public) level or not is still up in the air… Stay tuned!

Bunny’s Take: ….You want me to do what?!