It’s become a popular way of calming our minds and tightening our core . But yoga has now taken on a whole new art form using the nation’s favourite family pet.
As peace swallowed our troubles, “Surya Namaskar.” the instructor’s voice echoed across the studio amidst the melodic chords filling my body with the sweet bliss of relaxation as I eased my way into the downward dog. I could have been miles away. But in reality, I was at my weekly yoga class with the same four walls, performing the same moves, listening to the same playlist as last weekend. As boredom hit, I wondered, what if there’s more to yoga than meets the eye? And so turned to my good friend Google for answers.
Voilà, there it was. The nation’s favourite floppy-eared, waggy-tailed fluffy face, combined with the Hindu, spiritual art of yoga. I give you Doga. But it’s not Dog Yoga as founder and author of Dogamahny TM Mahny Djahanguiri was quick to correct me. “It is not dog yoga! It is doing yoga with your dog, it is yoga for both of you, but it’s mainly human focused.”
Dog meets yoga
Having discovered yoga back in 1999 at the Life Centre in Notting Hill, London, Mahny has since become a certified kids and adults yoga teacher. However, it was during a stroll along a beach in LA after a yoga class that she became inspired.
I saw people meditating on the beach while their dogs were running around them and thought this is it! I love yoga and I love dogs. So why not have both.
It does seem to make sense. Why leave your pooch at home locked away when you can take him along? Then again, how on earth would one possibly get a dog to sit quietly, bottom on mat performing sun salutations?
Well, that’s not quite how it works, as I discovered while chatting to Mahny. Classes begin with eager ‘dogis’ roaming around, sniffing about, while the ‘yogis’ settle into their mats and begin the journey to relaxation. “It’s a two-way system, it’s about yoga and the human, the dog is just present and may or may not take part. The dog benefits because you are relaxing. You lose the ‘ownership’ title the moment you enter the yoga room, it becomes a mutual relationship.”
Among all its quirks, it’s not surprising to hear that Doga has its fair share of stories, from rescue dogs mending broken souls, taking the leap of faith mid-pose to Evie the Chihuahua, a regular attendee who despite her small frame, had an ego bigger than Miley’s and the sass of Regina George. Although in her defence, she seemed adorable. “Evie became protective of my dog.”, chuckles Mahny, whose Maltese pooch Robbie, practically runs the class. “She was like the class guru, barking and charging in warning whenever any dogs went near him. It was like she was yelling ‘don’t touch Robbie!’”
A catching trend
With over 40,000 uses of #dogyoga on Instagram, it appears Mahny is not the only Doga pundit out there. Sarah Hosmer, from Utah, US, recalls how she recently stumbled upon the rising trend via social media. “I love yoga, so I searched the hashtag #yogachallenge to look for new challenges to participate in. I spotted the dog challenge and I knew it would be fun to do with my dog, Zelda.”
Expressing her experiences of the practice, she describes it as “very slow and purposeful, kind of like dog training in a way. Having her sit and stay, building trust. Sometimes I’ll take a walk or play fetch before doing yoga so she is calmer and more receptive” So no, it’s not all about getting that perfect shot for Insta. Although she confesses, that can play a part.
Balancing on one leg, feet shuddering as you attempt to hold a line of gravity whilst your dog is propped gently on your shoulder, nibbling on your earlobe. One can only imagine the intensity while trying to angle your smartphone to get that perfect square shot.
Anyhow, alike real yoga, it seems everyone’s cranking their own style, from treats and cuddles in ‘dog yoga’ to the more holistic version of ‘Doga’. But will 2017 see us all go dogamania? Perhaps an appearance on Britain’s Got Talent will only confirm.