By Kevin Aeh
Downward dog is one of the most famous poses in yoga; so naturally, it was only a matter of time before real live pups were invited to join in on the fun.
In fact, doggie yoga classes are nothing new. Gyms and yoga studios around the country have been offering them over the last couple of years. When I dropped by the monthly hour-long class at my local health club, I discovered that many of the dogs and their people have been attending since day one, which was more than two years ago. Could doggie yoga be overtaking afternoons in the dog park as the new “it” trend in canine social gatherings?
Before heading to the class, I wasn’t really sure what to expect. Who would be doing the stretching? How exactly do dogs do yoga? Will they have to focus on their breath (dogs don’t exactly have the best breath)? And more importantly, will Maggie, a hyper, but super-friendly 4-year-old Cockapoo—and my yoga partner for the day—be able to make it through the class without causing too much havoc?
When Maggie and I showed up at the club, I was already starting to have my doubts about the chances of her finding inner peace. She was a spaz on the car ride and the moment we walked in the studio, she immediately started running about, checking out the surroundings and the other participants. Luckily, all of the other dogs were, too. Roberta Duguid, general manager of the club, and our instructor Becky, accompanied by two tiny Chihuahuas, allowed a good 10 minutes for the dogs to run around and get to know each other.
Anyone who’s ever taken a yoga class knows that with all of the stretching and deep breathing involved, there’s usually someone in the class who accidentally passes gas. That wasn’t much of an issue here, but a couple of the participants did have a few accidents on the floor (numbers one and two). And that was before any of the actual yoga moves.
The messes were quickly cleaned up, and we soon sat on our yoga mats in a large circle. We all got in the lotus position, but it was still not time to start the yoga poses. Everyone in the class took turns passing a microphone to introduce themselves and their dogs. Of course, many of the introductions are not needed, as most of the canines are regulars here. “We think the dogs like seeing the same dog friends every month in class,” Duguid later told me. “It’s so much more social than going to a dog park.”
Once the introductions and funny stories were out of the way, the yoga began. Becky led us through simple breathing exercises while we held the dogs on our laps. For as hyper as Maggie and most of the other dogs were before the class, the breathing calmed them down. It was a reminder that dogs respond to our energy, and these deep-breathing moments really set the tone for the class. And that’s when the traditional yoga poses began.
Anyone who signs up for this class to get an awesome workout will be disappointed by the lack of sore muscles at the end of the session. No one breaks a sweat in this class. We did go through the sun salutations and other traditional yoga positions, while the dogs just sort of hung out at our sides (I admit I was little nervous that during the cat stretch heavy barking would ensue). They were occasionally used as props and incorporated into the different poses, like when we would rest our heads on our companions during the downward dog pose.
I couldn’t get over how just about every dog in the room—including the normally overexcited Maggie—was calm and cooperative. (Perhaps the soothing sounds of the Enya CD playing in the background also worked on our canine companions?)
The dogs did have a moment to stretch, and then we walked around the circle with our four-legged fitness friends on their leashes before the class ended with another socialization period for dogs.
Finding new friends at a dog park is easy, but the great thing about this class is the dogs can really build relationships with the same canines each month. Plus, there’s the chance of finding a little inner peace.