Dogs Try Yoga for Stress Relief
Jun 30, 8:48 am ET
By Caroline Humer
NEW YORK (Reuters) - New York City dog owners who worry that their furry friends need some stress management have a new option: yoga for dogs.
"Ruff Yoga" -- a so-called doga class aimed at relaxing the canine denizens of this often un-Zen city -- is being offered once a month in a downtown city park.
Half an hour on the yoga mat makes Isaac, her cocker spaniel, a calmer dog, said doga devotee Sarah Klein.
"Usually when he's in the park, he can't focus," said Klein, who was among nine New Yorkers and their dogs who attended a class on Thursday night.
First there was a short inspirational reading about dogs and a moment of "OM-ing." Then the women, following a yoga instructor, took their dogs through traditional poses, starting, without a trace of irony, by forming the furry bodies into the inverted V of the "downward dog" pose.
Then they bent over the dogs and curled their best friends into "child's pose," renamed "puppy's pose."
As a crowd of onlookers grew, the women stretched their dogs -- all of them on the small side -- to the left and the right and lifted them in their arms like furry weights. From time to time, they paused to pull the wandering dogs back to their mats and shush their barks.
"Give him a little love," yoga instructor Suzi Teitelman, 31, told her students. "Come forward, give him a kiss," Teitelman instructed as she leaned over her own spaniel, 2-year-old Coaly.
The class, sponsored by national fitness chain Crunch, grew out of Coaly climbing on her owner's yoga mat at home, Teitelman said. "Yoga came from the animals. It's natural instinct," she said.
Three women left the lesson with their dogs after several minutes, but those who stayed said it was worth it.
"I feel more relaxed and I think she does too," 24-year-old Tracy Alfajora said of Tallula, an 8-month-old, 3-pound Yorkshire terrier who had just finished her first class.
Yoga for dogs, sometimes called doga, has taken hold with pet lovers beyond New York.
Due on bookshelves in September is "Doga: Yoga for Dogs" from Chronicle Books. The book, based on the fact that some of yoga's best known positions are based on the movements of dogs, has tips on practicing yoga with your dog.
And yoga guru Bruce Van Horn is studying the physiological effect of yoga on dogs at a New Jersey animal shelter. Using stress reduction techniques like breathing exercises, he aims to calm the dogs and help them be adopted.
Van Horn, whose book "Yoga for Pets and the People who Love Them" also is due in the fall, says he has noticed results with his own dog. "It's a healing thing," he said.