How did a Maltese pup go from a Slovakian puppy farm to becoming the U.K.'s first Downward Dog-loving dog?
Yep, Robbie is a dogi, practising yoga every day with his yogi mum Mahny Djahanguiru. But his life didn't start out in the downward dog position ...
Robbie was bought by a wealthy Bahranian family in 2012, who travelled to London to pick him after seeing an ad for him online. He was just four-months-young, a picture-perfect ball of fluff. But a day after picking him up, the family changed its mind and decided they didn't want him anymore.
Luckily, following a chance encounter with the family in Hyde Park the day before, Mahny ended up rescuing Robbie. "I held Robbie in my arms. He felt so soft, so innocent. It was all so unfair. We bonded instantly," Mahny tells me. A match made in doggy heaven.
Mahny discovered Robbie was born in a Slovakian puppy mill, and fortunately he hasn't suffered any health problems, "but he's very territorial over his food!" says Mahny. His unlucky start to life motivated Mahny to write the upcoming children's book The Dog That Was Sold On The Net. This experienced yoga teacher, who started working with neglected children before moving into yoga with dogs, also has a guide to doga coming out, Doga: Yoga for you and your dog.
Image via Doga Mahny
Wait, so how does a dog practise doga?Mahny told me it's less about mimicking human yoga poses, and more about letting go and focusing on your breathing, connecting your energy with your pups'. Dogs copy their parent's breathing, so grab your yoga mat, and encourage your dog to lie down with you. They may sniff around at first, even piddle on your mat (keep a towel handy!) but curiosity usually gets the better of them and they'll join you around 20 minutes into a doga session.
Image via Oh So Cute Pet PhotographyDogs are fantastic as "props" for you to enhance your asanas (postures). "Swing your pup onto your hip for Triangle Pose, inhaling and exhaling into your side so your pup can feel the breath," said Mahny. And yes, Downward Dog is double the fun with your dog - once they've settled in between your palms, rub your nose into their bellies. Talk about your moment of zen!
Image via Londonist"Robbie's favourite doga pose is the Seated Forward Bend, called the Hot Dog," said Mahny. "Robbie lies in the supine pose on my shins with his paws in the air. I bend forward, placing my heart and chest on his belly. That's where we both connect with each others' breathing. It also helps lengthen Robbie's spine, giving his tight hind legs a lovely stretch." Perfect after a long day of chasing his sister, Samantha the cat, around the garden! "Robbie is a natural back-bender, and loves taking his head back." But most importantly, Mahny wants to make sure people understand that "doga is about observing you ethics such as truthfulness, non-violence and non-harm, so you never want to force your dog into a pose that he doesn't want to do." So what's a typical day for this yoga-practising pooch?
Image via Doga Mahny"Robbie loves doga anytime of the day, but he's not an early riser. He prefers doga after a jog in the park in the afternoon," said Mahny. He's so in tune with his mum that he prefers hooman food, like minced beef, turkey or chicken breast. "I've tried very expensive organic tin food, but he won't touch it." And like any good yogi, he allows himself a few treats - in the shape of a pig ear here and there.
Image via Oh So Cute Pet PhotographyThanks to doga, Robbie has blossomed into a real character, schmoozing on TV shows including Made in Chelsea and the Alan Titchmarsh Show. He loves riding the Tube and will even jump over commuters to get a seat! "People love stroking Robbie and I get chatted up quite a bit," said Mahny with a laugh. "I am so grateful to have met the family that dumped Robbie. Robbie has changed my life. And I hope I have changed his for the better." Mahny runs doga classes with Robbie across London, as well as paw-to-paw private sessions. Visit her website to learn more. Doga: Yoga for you and your dog, by Mahny Djahanguiri, published by Hamlyn, will be released in May, 2015, and is available to pre-order now at Amazon.