Dog yoga? Can this be serious?
Actually, yes. New York veterinarian Dr. Louise Murrray, author of the pet health guide "Vet Confidential" (Ballantine Books), predicts that dog yoga (also known as: doga) will be one of the top trends in pet care for 2016.
To be clear, doga isn't exactly yoga for dogs (although canines can do a mean downward dog pose). It's yoga with dogs. The yogi does most of the work while the dog is the bystander and a "casual participant" who serves as a weight, yoga block or prop, writes Mahny Djahanguiri, author of "DOGA: Yoga For You and Your Dog" (Hamlyn) and teaches yoga in London with her Maltese terrier, Robbie.
Think of it as partner yoga, except with a pup instead of a person.
"There is definitely more and more desire for pet parents to incorporate their pets into their own activities," Murray said. "They're part of our families and we want them to do the things we do. We want them to eat similar things to what we eat. If we travel, we want them to come with us."
So if you're a yogi, why not do it with your dogi, working the pet into your poses? If you're doing a standing forward bend, for example, the dog can rest on his back inside of your forearms, while you massage his neck. Or you can lift him up high while doing a warrior lunge.
What does your dog get out of doga? "It calms him mentally and physically," said Djahanguiri. "It creates a natural bond between you and your dog, and gives them a little peace." Here's what you should know before you and your canine give doga a try.
1. Vet it with your vet. Check with your vet first to be sure there's no reason the dog shouldn't do yoga, said Murray. "Make sure [the yoga poses] are nothing that will cause your dog physical discomfort. We know when to stop, but dogs have a hard time telling us. They're very stoic."
2. Do no harm. Don't force your dog do something he doesn't want to do. It's counter to the philosophy of yoga, said Djahanguiri. Avoid picking him up when he's asleep or when he wants to wriggle out of your grip. And don't stretch your dog out: His tendons and ligaments are very tender.
3. Truthfulness. Avoid using treats to coax your dog into doga. "This is yoga, not a training session," said Djahanguiri. Also, avoid taking away your dog's personal space. If he wanders across the room and goes to sleep, let him be. The goal of Doga is "for your dog to absorb your calm, not to becomes stressed by your experience," she said.
4. Less is more. Your dog doesn't have to be involved in any of the yoga poses, "but he can still absorb your calm," said Djahanguiri. "You can influence him through regulating your breathing pattern, which calms down your dog while also calming down your central nervous system."
5. Patience and contentment. Doga won't happen overnight. "It could be a 3- to 6-month practice." said Djahanguiri. Be happy with what you've achieved on a given day. Taking time to make space for yourself and your dog is an achievement in itself. Namaste.
Linda Matchan can be reached at email@example.com.