It’s no secret that dog yoga is on the rise. It’s an approachable exercise, and there’s a wealth of health benefits in practicing it.
By some counts, just 15 minutes of yoga every day can change our brain’s chemistry and boost our moods. Other authorities have even deemed yoga as a helpful therapy for anxiety and depression.
Good news is you needn’t reinvent the wheel to incorporate your dog into your yoga practice. Here, we’re digging into this relatively new-wave yoga practice, the health benefits of it for you and your pet, plus dog yoga poses to help Fido find their flow state.
What is Doga?
Doga is dog yoga, meaning doing yoga with your dog. It’s also sometimes referred to as puppy yoga, when you’re doing yoga with a puppy.
And while yoga was introduced to the U.S. in the 1800s, doga was apparently coined by yoga practitioner Suzi Teitelman in just 2001. As with any atypical fitness routine, some are quick to write off doga as a gimmick. Hey, beer yoga, bunny yoga, and even goat yoga exists.
What sets doga apart is that the practice benefits the animal, too. While traditional yoga is a mind-body practice, doga is a mind-body-doggy practice. The flow of energy is between you and your pup, not just your own body. And just as humans who do yoga are called yogis, dogs who do yoga are called dogis. Clever, right?
Generally, doga is practiced in two ways:
- You help your pet strike dog yoga poses.
- Your dog is nearby as you flow through your yoga routine.
Believe it or not, the benefits are about the same for each approach. That’s because, above all, doga is a bonding experience with your pup.
6 Benefits of Doga
Given yoga is thousands of years old, it should come as no surprise that its health benefits are well researched. One New York University study even provided that yoga can improve symptoms of generalized anxiety disorders.
Since dog yoga, on the other hand, only recently came into the fitness scene, the health benefits of doga for pups are not fully researched. Still, there are some commonly inferred upsides.
1. Improves Physical Health in You and Your Dog
Yoga, which is grounded in stretching and strengthening exercises, improves our circulation and range of motion — and it can do the same for our pups’ physical fitness. For a close example, consider how we turn to hydrotherapy to ease our dogs’ arthritic pains and how vets administer stretching exercises to help injured pups build strength. In overweight dogs, more movement means they can lose fat or build muscle overtime.
2. Provides Mental Stimulation for Dogs
They say you can’t teach an old dog new tricks, but you really should try to improve their mental stimulation. Doga checks this box. Just attempting to teach your dog yoga poses could help sharpen their cognitive state and also change up their daily routine. Think about when you run through the same motions on the daily. You become bored, restless, and maybe even get into mischief.
Keeping your pooch preoccupied with doga — whether they’re striking dog yoga poses themselves or cocking their head at you — can keep them out of mischief, too. It’s similar to the effects of interactive dog toys. Your furbaby may even interpret your dog yoga routine as play. That’s OK, as playtime can elevate their levels of serotonin and dopamine, which calms and relaxes.
3. Offers Opportunities for You Both to Socialize
Socialization is important when it comes to raising our pups. Putting our dogs in different environments can help them become more trusting with strangers and different settings. In the long run, this can make them better travel companions and even fitness buddies.
In the case of dog yoga, this opportunity for socialization most often occurs in doga classes, whereby you go to a yoga studio with your pet. For pet owners, these classes can also make for great opportunities to socialize with like-minded dog lovers. For pets, the classes may even provide opportunities for playtime with fellow dogis. In the instance you don’t want to attend a class in person, you can always practice doga at home and feel good knowing you have a companion. Alternatively, there are scores of doga classes on YouTube if you’d like to feel connected to others, too.
4. Encourages Relaxation for You and Your Pup
While dog yoga poses and exercises can help us burn energy, the stretching and massage parts of the practice can be calming. Mental stability is one of the biggest human benefits of yoga and, given our pets can feed off of our emotions, doga can help your pup become mentally stable, too.
One study even suggests that the mere act of petting your dogs — during a dog yoga routine or not — can decrease our cortisol levels, which decreases stress. Consider pet therapy dogs on college campuses. With doga, your pooch reaps the benefits, too, because when you’re calm and collected, so are they. This can especially be the case in hyperactive dogs.
5. Urges Owners To Check on Their Dog’s Health
Since pet owners coach their pups through dog yoga poses, they’ll find themselves handling their dogs a lot during a doga practice. And this is great, as long as your dog is comfortable with it. Petting and handling our animals can build trust and, in turn, makes necessary tasks like nail trimmings and ear cleanings run much smoother. Think of it as an extension of behavioral therapy.
Moreover, the more attune you are with your dog’s body, the more you can notice any abnormalities. For instance, you may find a questionable lump or tic when petting your belly-up pup during Savasana.
6. Promotes Bonding With Your Dog
Every dog and dog owner is different, so doga routines are not the same across human-pet companions. Rover might prefer gnawing on a dog treat while you crush your Warrior 2 pose or maybe Fido finds joy in striking a puppy pose right alongside you. No matter your pooch’s preference, just having them with you is a bonding experience.
And your dog probably won’t be hard-pressed to stick by your side. After all, dogs are pack animals at heart and they like to mill around with their family. For humans, the bonding experience is almost inevitable. According to one study, just petting our animals can also induce a release of oxytocin, a bonding hormone.
Yoga for Dogs: How to Get Started With Dog Yoga
Set your skepticism aside. You should no longer be wondering whether you can do yoga with your dog. Instead, you might be questioning, “How do I get my dog to do yoga?” Keep an open mind and consider the following pointers to ease your pup into a doga routine.
Step 1: Show Rover Dog-Inspired Yoga Poses
There’s plenty of yoga poses inspired by dogs — downward dog and puppy pose, to name a few. Flow through some of these to channel your own inner doggy and, in turn, connect with your inner yogi. Be sure to practice those and others in front of your pup and in an environment they already have fun with, such as during walks and playtime. This way, when you want to incorporate them into a doga practice fully, they’ll associate more fondly with it.
Step 2: Lift Fido During Your Routine
Doga can go two ways: Your dog joins in the routine or your dog watches the routine. For small dog or puppy owners, one of the easiest ways to introduce your dog to yoga is to let them stand-in as a weight. Think: Raising them above your head or using them as a kettlebell for deadlifts. Most importantly, only do this if they’re comfortable with it. The last thing you want in a doga practice is to frighten your furbaby.
Step 3: Practice Doga at Home
There are few essentials you need to practice dog yoga at home: A space, a mat, and a dog. That’s it. To level up the environment, you can even put on calming music for dogs. It’s wise to run through a doga routine at home before subjecting your pup to a doga class. This way, you know how fond Fido really is about striking those dog yoga poses or whether they prefer to watch you work them out.
Step 4: Take a Dog Yoga Class
There are a few things to consider before enrolling in a dog yoga class. Some classes only allow certain sizes, others encourage you to incorporate your dog into your routine, and some only allow pups to mill around. Know what you’re signing up for before arriving and, remember, it’s OK if your dog doesn’t want to participate. They may just want to socialize with other pets. Don’t get frustrated. Remember, our pets feed off our energy. And, in the instance of doga, we should be happy when they’re happy. If it’s the case that your dog’s hyperactive, consider bringing a chew toy from home to distract them and not disturb other yogis and dogis.
Step 5: Don’t Force It
Most crucial of all is to go at your dog’s pace when it comes to a dog yoga practice. The goal is for your pup to come away with a positive experience and hopefully feeling relaxed. For this reason, never force your dog into doga poses they appear uncomfortable with. Maybe even consult your vet, if you’re unsure of their range of motion. Bottom line: Patience and persistence is key in doga. After all, every dog has its day.
15 Doga Poses to Try With Your Pup
Namaste is only one dog yoga pose away!
In no particular order, we’ve compiled a list of doga poses to try with your pup by your side or even on your mat. Some are dog-inspired poses for pet owners and others are true dog yoga poses for owners to coach their pets through.
1. Heart to Hound Mudra
Heart to Hound Mudra is more of a meditative pose and promotes a transfer of energy from you to your pet. Good vibes only! As the name indicates, it can only be achieved between a human and pup..
- How you do it: Sit cross legged behind or in front of your seated dog. Put your left hand on your heart, and place your right hand on your dog’s heart. Close your eyes and breathe slowly.
- How your dog plays a part: They sit and stay in front of you and feel the transfer of your positive energy.
Think of Chaturanga like a yoga push-up. It strengthens muscles around your spine and arms, as well as your wrists and abs, because you begin in a plank. It’s often used to reset a flow and transitions into upward facing dog, then down dog.
- How you do it: Begin in a high plank, shoulders stacked above wrists. Hug your elbows to your side body, shift forward on your toes, and slowly use your arms to lower your body to the mat. Pause and hold once your shoulders are in line with your elbows.
- How your dog plays a part: They lay flat on the floor and you pet their back.
3. Chair Pose
Best for dogs comfortable standing on their hind legs or advanced dogis, Chair Pose benefits a pup’s blood circulation and range of motion. When done alone in humans, it strengthens our thighs and ankles and tones our shoulders, glutes, and back.
- How you do it: Stand tall, with your feet slightly wider than hip-width apart and arms at your side. Lift both arms above your head, and keep your shoulders down. Bend your knees, keeping your legs parallel, and lean your torso forward.
- How your dog plays a part: You kneel behind your dog. Holding them from behind, position the dog to stand on their hind legs, then raise their front paws in the air.
4. Puppy Paw Mudra
A dog-involved take on Puppy Pose, Puppy Paw Mudra is a stretching pose that benefits our spine, shoulders, upper back, and arms. For our pups? It can build trust with owners, because it involves a sense of touch.
- How you do it: Kneel back on your heels, legs together, and fold over your laid-down dog in front of you. Extend your arms over their paws and tilt your head side to side.
- How your dog plays a part: They lay and stay on the ground in front of you, front legs extended outward, and enjoy the bonding time with their owner.
5. Downward-Facing Dog
As far as dog yoga poses go, you can’t get more tried and true than Downward-Facing Dog — as the name alludes, our pooches basically invented it! In humans, this stretching yoga pose benefits our legs, opens our shoulders, and strengthens our arms. It’s sometimes shortened to Downward Dog or Down Dog.
- How you do it: Begin on your hands and knees, wrists right under shoulders and knees above your hips. Your fingers should be spread flat at the top of your mat. Tuck your toes and lift your knees off the floor, straighten your legs and bring your body into an A-shape.
- How your dog plays a part: To incorporate them into your pose, have your dog lay and stay below you on the mat between your hands and feet. Move into the A-shape above them.
6. Upward-Facing Dog
Another dog-inspired yoga pose, Upward-Facing Dog opens up our chest and ab muscles. It also strengthens our shoulders, triceps, forearms, and lower back, all of which support the pose. It’s sometimes shortened to Upward Dog or Up Dog.
- How you do it: Begin face-down on the floor, legs extended behind you and tops of your feet down toward the mat. Place your palms beside your hips, and push your upper body up off the mat, with arms straightened.
- How your dog plays a part: They don’t. They do it on their own time and watch you strike the pose during the doga session.
7. Forward Bend
Great for stretching hamstrings and calves, Forward Bend pose is often conducted in the cool-down part of a yoga routine. If you’d like, gather your pup to participate.
- How you do it: Stand tall, feet hip-width apart and hands stretched overhead. Sweep your arms down to the floor and bend at the hips, encouraging your palms to lay flat on the floor and maybe bending your knees to achieve this.
- How your dog plays a part: To incorporate them into your pose, they lay and stay in front of you as you bend over and pet them ever so gently.
8. Compass Pose
Inspired by how our dogs lift their legs to groom themselves, Compass Pose opens humans’ hips, shoulders, and hamstrings and stretches our spines.
- How you do it: Begin in a seated position. Lift your right leg with your left hand, thread your right arm under your right knee. Slowly encourage your right leg to straighten until your right knee aligns to your right shoulder and your left arm reaches behind your head. Repeat on the other side.
- How your dog plays a part: They don’t. They do it on their own time, and watch you strike the pose during your practice.
9. Happy Baby
Think of a dog happily rolling around in the grass and kicking their legs in the air and you have the Happy Baby pose. This pose stretches your inner thighs, hamstrings, and groin. For humans, it’s great for flexibility and mobility.
- How you do it: Lay in a ball on your back, knees hugged toward your shoulders. Reach for your feet, pull them apart, and press down to put pressure on your tailbone. If you like, roll side to side to massage your back.
- How your dog plays a part: They don’t. They do it on their own time, and are amused watching you do it on yours.
10. Inner Dog Mudra
A riff on Puppy Paw Mudra, this stretching pose also benefits our spines but it also opens up our chest. Best part of all, it’s grounded in an energy transfer between you and your pup.
- How you do it: Sit on your knees facing your dog. Clasp your palms behind your back, opening your chest, then lean forward to pour your torso over your legs. From there, connect your forehead to your dog’s forehead.
- How your dog plays a part: They sit or lay facing in front of you and enjoy your head-to-head touch.
11. Supine Twist
Somewhat inspired by how our dogs lay on their sides, this stretching pose is great for humans’ lower and middle backs. It also can open your chest. Most yogis incorporate it into the cool-down part of their practice.
- How you do it: Begin by laying on your back, knees bent, feet on the floor, and arms extended into a T. Let your knees fall to the left side, keeping your hips stacked and shoulders pressed to the ground. Gaze to the right and hold. Repeat on the other side.
- How your dog plays a part: They don’t. They enjoy watching you, maybe even while laying on their side, too.
12. Supported Fetal Pose
Loosely inspired by how our dogs sleep in a ball similar to a fetal position, Supported Fetal Pose promotes relaxation and is often conducted at the end of a yoga routine — or even unbeknowingly when we sleep.
- How you do it: Lay on your side, knees bent toward your chest. Use the arm nearest to the floor to support your head like a pillow. Connect with your breath.
- How your dog plays a part: They do it on their own time, usually during a nap. In doga, they watch you.
Savasana, also known as corpse pose, seals almost every yoga practice. In layman’s terms, it’s a short nap, which means even your dog can do it. You just might need to take turns, as there’s the option to guide your pup through their practice with this one. Most importantly, rest and relax.
- How you do it: Lie on your back, with your legs straight and arms by your side, eyes closed. Connect with your breath and your body.
- How your dog plays a part: They lay on their back, belly up, while you pet their exposed belly.
14. Child’s Pose
Very similar to Puppy Pose, Child’s Pose is a stretching yoga pose that opens up your lower back and inner thighs. It’s often used as a resting position between poses and, when incorporated with dogs, can build trust thanks to a sense of touch.
- How you do it: Kneel toward the floor, with your knees spread hip-width apart and toes touching. Lower your torso between your knees and slide your arms overhead toward the top of your mat. Feel the stretch.
- How your dog plays a part: They lay and stay in front of you, as you kneel behind them, with your knees spread hip-width apart and toes touching. Fold over top of Fido and enjoy one another’s sense of touch.
Not to be confused with Wheel pose, Wheelbarrow pose is a true doga pose in that it actually can benefit dogs more than humans — we’re simply there to guide their body. It should only be attempted with dogs who are comfortable being handled and with relatively strong mobility. Consider it as an advanced dog yoga pose.
- How you do it: Stand behind your laid-down dog in front of you, then gently pick up their back legs and move your hands to their hip joints for support. Very slowly shift your dog forward and back and side-to-side, adjusting their torso.
- How your dog plays a part: They lay and stay in front of you, then put their weight into their front paws as you guide the back of their body. They also communicate when they’re ready to be put down.
Remember, every dog will want to approach a doga routine differently, with some making good on opportunities for socialization and others literally leaning into poses for rest and relaxation.
Combine your routine with other calming properties and you may even find your pup pawing at you every time you mention the word D-O-G-A.