Lots of yoga poses are named after animals—like cobra pose, swan pose and the ever-famous downward dog. Yogis have gotten so used to performing downward dog on their own that they’ve nearly forgotten who it’s named after! As it turns out, your furry friend is the perfect companion for a hot new trend called “doga.”
Doga (dog yoga) might sound silly, but it has real health benefits, especially for senior dogs living with arthritis. Here’s what doga is and how it can support canine joint health.
Adding dogs to your yoga session
Doga is exactly what it sounds like—yoga with dogs! Although some yoga poses aren’t meant for dogs, many are adaptable so both human and pooch can perform them together. In fact, a lot of yoga poses are designed to mimic the way animals stretch. No one’s a better pro at downward dog than an actual dog!
Doga is a bonding activity where you and your pup can assist each other with different poses. Holding a small breed can add extra weight and help you sink into that stretch a little deeper. With help from their owners, dogs can stand on their hind legs and perform stretches they’d never be able to do on their own.
Don’t stress if your dog’s not into it. Doga is all about recognizing the dog’s comfort level and going at their pace. If your dog starts to squirm, let them have the freedom to roam around and simply watch you. At the very least, doga provides the opportunity to spend time together!
How doga supports joint health
Humans aren’t the only ones who benefit from the healing powers of yoga. Arthritis is common in older dogs and has been known to improve with regular yoga sessions.
Here are all the ways doga can alleviate symptoms of canine arthritis:
- Weight loss: Yoga is a form of exercise that can help dogs lose weight. Extra weight puts unnecessary stress on swollen, painful joints, so shedding a few pounds is beneficial for dogs who are overweight or obese. In other words, yoga for dogs is a natural pain reliever that works in tandem with traditional medication. Even if your dog doesn’t have arthritis, weight management is key to preventing obesity and associated health risks.
- Muscle development: Doga strengthens the ligaments around leg joints, which provides extra support for arthritic pups. Over time, strong muscles may help your dog regain some of their mobility. Strength reinforces joints that have lost cartilage so your pup is better able to run and play. Muscle development is an effective treatment for arthritis and can help prevent the disease, as well.
- Flexibility: Doga—and regular yoga, for that matter—involves tons of stretching. Yoga is an easy activity for dogs to enjoy because they already know how to stretch! The various poses of doga will help your arthritic pup become flexible and increase their range of motion. This can alleviate stiffness in the joints and make it easier to move through everyday life.
How to do yoga with your pup
Getting started with doga is simple. All you need is a water bottle, a floor mat and a dog! Plenty of yoga instructors offer doga sessions, but there are a few simple poses you two can try right at home.
Here are some fun ideas your dog might enjoy:
- Puppy paw mudra: For this pose, you’ll copy how dogs like to lay on the floor. Start by encouraging your pup to lay on their stomach. Kneel behind your dog, then rest your head on their back. Gently extend their front legs forward and place your hands on top of their paws. Lay for a while until you’re both ready to try the next pose. Puppy paw mudra is the most relaxing cuddle session ever!
- Chair pose: The chair pose is great for developing your dog’s leg strength. Have them sit in front of you, then slowly lift under the arm pits until they’re standing on both hind legs. The final step is raising your pup’s front paws straight ahead. Hold the chair pose for a few seconds or however long Fido is comfortable with it.
- Wheelbarrow: This next pose is a bit more advanced and requires trust from the pup. When your dog is laying down, stand behind them and pick up the hind legs. It’s super important to make sure you’re supporting their hip joints! Allow the dog to support some of their weight on the front paws so they can stretch out their torso.
Doga has many benefits beyond improving canine joint health. It’s a wonderful stress reliever and will bring both of you closer than ever. No matter your dog’s ability level, anyone can do it. The yogi lifestyle is fit for arthritic senior dogs to the healthiest of pups. Namaste!