When yoga first emerged as the trendy new exercise-of-the-moment, some people were skeptical about its staying power. Words like “Chakra”, “Karma” and “Namaste” induced spontaneous eye rolls from many a die-hard fitness fanatic. Although strange poses, positive thinking and controlled breathing won’t prepare you for the next Strong Man Competition, yoga has certainly carved out its own important niche in the fitness world. Now, some experts believe it could do the same for our dogs.
According to the European Journal of Preventive Cardiology, yoga can reduce the potential for heart disease just as much as conventional cardio and strength training exercise. On average, the yoga participants studied lost 5 pounds, decreased their blood pressure and lowered their “bad” cholesterol an average of 12 points. All of this on top of improved flexibility, balance and peace of mind. No wonder yoga has earned such a massive following, many of whom are now exploring its potential benefits to their furry friends.
If you’re anything like me, the term “Doga” conjures images of poor, unsuspecting dogs being twisted and stretched into crazy poses. Mahny Djahanguiri, author of DOGA: Yoga For You and Your Dog, assures that this isn’t the case. Doga is more like “Yoga with dogs.” Djahanguiri teaches yoga in London with her partner, Maltese Terrier, Robbie. She suggests working your dog into your routines in a way that is safe and comfortable for you both. Perhaps lifting him above your head during a warrior pose, or massaging his neck during a standing forward bend.
Pawrents are finding more and more ways to incorporate our beloved pets into every aspect of our lives from dog-friendly office environments to pampering travel accommodations. Including them in our exercise routines seems like a natural step, and, according to Djahanguiri, a very beneficial one.
It calms him mentally and physically. It creates a natural bond between you and your dog, and gives them a little peace.
She offered five steps each Yogi should take before attempting to incorporate their dog into their yoga routines:
- Consult your veterinarian. It’s vital to discuss the physical and mental impact that yoga will have on your dog with a trusted professional. He/she can determine if your dog is physically able to participate, and if yoga will be safe and beneficial.
2. Make sure your partner is willing. Yoga is intended to improve mental and physical well being. Forcing your dog to participate in an exercise that frightens him or makes him uncomfortable goes against the whole philosophy. Djahanguiri also warns that you should not stretch your dog’s tender muscles and tendons for him. Dogs do their own stretching instinctively. Hello, Downward Facing Dog?
3. Respect your dog’s personal space. Don’t lure your dog into a pose using treats, or wake him up from a cozy sleeping spot to join you. Djahanguiri reminds that the goal of Doga is “for your dog to absorb your calm, not to becomes stressed by your experience.”
4. Start out slowly. Even if your dog isn’t ready to participate in any of the yoga poses physically, he can still benefit from the peace the exercises bring to you. “You can influence him through regulating your breathing pattern, which calms down your dog while also calming down your central nervous system,” says Djahanguiri.
5. Be patient and content with your achievements. “It could be a 3- to 6-month practice.” said Djahanguiri. She emphasizes that you should be thankful for each little achievement, and remember that just taking the time to improve your physical and mental health is a success in and of itself. Doga doesn’t happen overnight.
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