Some things sound great in theory but totally bomb in reality. Think world peace. High-heeled sneakers. Bacon-flavored potato chips. And you can add one more to the list: Yoga for dogs.
Called “doga” by those in the know, the practice involves rolling out your yoga mat, calling your pooch on over, and then having a meaningful session of stretching, flexing and bonding with your furry friend. Pay money to take an actual doga class and you typically get one of the following two options:
- Balancing your four-legged friend on one of your arms while trying to successfully balance the rest of your body on the mat
- Doing yoga as you usually would while a room full of dogs brought in by their yoga-happy owners mill around and probably get in your way
Since my dogs tend to weigh in at more than 80 pounds, I opted for the second option, which I faithfully tried at home on more than one occasion. Here’s a rundown on what you are likely to expect if you try doga at home with two big dogs in a pretty cramped house.
Rolling out the Yoga Mat
This may be the most exciting moment in the doga session. As your dogs may have already witnessed you lying down, bending and otherwise putting your head near the floor when the yoga mat comes out, they instantly associate the yoga mat with play.
They also really dig the mat’s texture and smell. One of your dogs may run up to the mat the moment it unfurls on the floor – then plop himself happily down in the center of it. Since moving a big dog off a yoga mat is more like a sweat-inducing weight-lifting session than a calm and gentle yoga session, the easiest solution is to go get a second mat.
Rolling out a Second Yoga Mat
The trick here is to ensure the second mat is not close enough to the first mat for the dog to simply stretch out and effectively hog them both. Getting enough room between the mats can be tricky, particularly if the only somewhat open area in the house contains a coffee table, an oriental chest jammed with old bills, and an orange vinyl stool that belonged to your favorite grandma.
Once your mats are positioned far enough apart so a single dog can’t hog them both, yet not so far that you hit your head on the orange vinyl stool, you’re ready to begin the poses with your dogs in earnest.
Downward Facing Dog
This is a natural pose for canines, which is probably how it got its name. It’s the same sweet pose dogs use when they’re doing a bow or enticing other pooches to play. While dogs may do it with abandon every single morning, they’ll decide not to do it on the one morning each week you do yoga and are begging them to give the pose a whirl.
Upward Facing Dog
This pose involves lying on your stomach, top of the feet flat against the mat, while stretching the top half of your body upward. Note this pose also has the word “dog” in it, and dogs typically like to attempt it when you’re in a hurry and they’re blocking your way.
This long, slow, languid pose can clog up the entire hallway when your dog is in front of you and doing it right. One thing to note, however, is that dogs may do it wrong. They may stretch their upper body toward the sky, but they may fail to place the tops of their feet properly flat against the floor.
Here you hold your body like a plank, with your bent toes and palms flat against the mat. Since it kind of mimics how your dog would normally stand, dogs automatically get credit for achieving this pose. Give them extra credit if they actually stand on their back tippy-toes as you do when in the position.
Pretend you’re sitting in a chair, with your legs bent, your back straight, your arms up, and your butt hovering in the space where the chair seat would be. You’ve just mastered the chair pose.
Your dogs may kinda sorta do this pose when they’re halfway standing up to beg at the kitchen table.
As long as your boyfriend is not around to be horrified at how you let the dogs beg at the table, you should always encourage and reward your pooches’ gallant attempt at the chair pose. And you should not expect them to come anywhere close to this pose on the yoga mat.
Try to get your dog into a backbend and you’ll be cited for animal cruelty. Doing one yourself while your dogs are around, however, can be an all-time canine favorite. With your arms and legs totally useless to defend your face, your dogs get an open invitation to lick your nose, nibble on your neck, or knock your glasses clean off your head. And you can’t do a dang thing about it.
Also watch out if you happen to have a crafty hound that homes in on the opportunity to lie down directly beneath your raised back, ensuring you must stay in the position until your back snaps in half or he decides to move, whichever comes first.
The headstand usually has one of two effects on dogs. The pooches will either love it, taking it as another open invitation to lick your nose, nibble your neck and knock your glasses off your head. Or they’ll become totally freaked out when they see your feet go up in the air. My dogs have always been in the latter category, quickly fleeing the scene when they see the feet go skyward.
They’re even less fond of the handstand, which puts the feet even higher and usually involves a big banging noise as my legs slam against the door I need to lean against for balance.
The perfect way to end a yoga session, the corpse pose involves lying quietly on your back like a dead person. Here the dogs generally come out of hiding after the headstand scare and proceed to stand straddling your face and torso.
Keeping your eyes closed during this one helps retain the serene vibe your yoga session should have instilled – while making sure you don’t have to look at anything dangling from the underside of the dog that happens to be straddling your face.