If you’re a dog owner and have ever practiced yoga at home, you may have experienced the pure joy and curiosity your dog exudes whenever you’re practicing your asana. My dog Nina, a spunky little Dachshund and Jack Russell Terrier mix, starts wagging her tail uncontrollably the second my mat hits the floor. Maybe it’s because I’m spending time on her “level” or perhaps she secretly finds it amusing to watch me twist myself into various positions. Either way – yoga time is playtime in her mind and you can guarantee that if I’m on my mat, so is she.
I rescued Nina a little over 3 years ago, right around the same time that I started practicing yoga, so she became very acclimated to my daily sessions. For awhile, I just let her bounce on and off my mat – licking my face, pushing me over, and dropping her ball down in front of me at every opportune moment. One day I thought to myself, how would she react if I genuinely included her in my practice?
No, I didn’t train my dog to do yoga poses on her own. Instead, I seized each time on my mat as an opportunity to further bond with her by incorporating her into various yoga poses that I was already doing.
There were definitely a few hiccups a long the way (like that one time I almost fell on her while in headstand – sorry, Nina!) but over time it has become a great way to establish trust and to get more in tune with how my dog is feeling. I learned the dos and don’ts pretty quickly and now enjoy a lovely doga practice with Nina at least once a week.
If you’re looking to start practicing yoga with your dog, here are a few basic poses to get you started! Please keep in mind that Nina weighs about 16 pounds so the following poses are meant for a dog of similar or smaller size.
This is one of Nina’s favorites and is something that we can stay in for at least a full 60 seconds.
Place your dog on your lap with their head facing you. Bring their front paws up so they rest on your shoulders or chest. Slowly lean back while bringing your knees up. Engage your core and control your breath. Encourage your dog by talking sweetly and maybe even waving your hands above them so they have something to look at.
Knees To Chest Pose
This pose will test your dog’s balance. The key is to keep very still and encourage your dog to lie down on your legs.
While lying on your back, pick up your dog and place them on your chest. From there slowly bring your knees towards your head and gently pick up your dog and let them settle on your shins, facing you. Keep your hands on their sides until your dog is comfortable and balanced. Stay here for 10 full breaths and then release your legs slowly down.
If your pup is a lap dog they’ll love this yoga pose. I usually do this at the beginning or end of my practice and stay in it for as long as Nina allows.
Find a comfortable seated position with your legs crossed in front of you. No need to do full lotus, but if it’s in your practice feel free. Encourage your dog to come sit on your lap and just spend a few minutes giving them a nice petting session. With any luck they’ll doze right off.
Now that you’re ready to start doing yoga with your dog, keep in mind that it may take a few tries before your pup feels comfortable in these postures. I recommend keeping treats on hand; encourage them and know when enough is enough. Dogs are like little babies – it’s important to read their body language and know when you should probably just play fetch with them instead of forcing them to balance on your legs. 😉 As you can see, Nina was eyeing one of her fav toys and after this shot took the opportunity to pounce on it.