Pet Yoga and Downward Facing Dogs - Yoga Practice Blog

Pet Yoga and Downward Facing Dogs

yoga teacher courseBy Faye Martins

What is pet yoga all about? According to a 2004 BBC article, New York City-based yoga teacher Suzi Teitelman invented doggie yoga, or “doga” as it’s sometimes called. As an instructor for the fitness chain Crunch, she was inspired and decided to include her cocker spaniel in the class since he frequently joined her on the mat during her home practice, and “Ruff Yoga” was born.


Pet Yoga and Doga

Since then, doga classes have emerged across the United States. There’s even a book called “Doga: Yoga For Dogs,” by Jennifer Brilliant and William Berloni. What is “pet Yoga,” and can it honor the actual practice?

Formats vary, but practices typically last 30 minutes rather than a whole hour or more to honor the pets’ shorter attention span. Asanas done are standard hatha yoga poses, adapted to include pets. This may mean a standing forward bend holding the dog’s hind legs as he performs a wheelbarrow pose.

Props for Practice

Standard mats are used, but no other props, perhaps to avoid tempting the canine participants. Doga classes start with setting an intention and can end with savasana, modified to rest the human’s head on her canine partner. Some studios even provide bubbling water “fountains” for the dogs to drink after practice.


Pet Attention Spans

Teitelman claims that after four years of practicing with her, her dog is more flexible, calmer, and can go into poses more deeply. Others argue that their pets become more focused and that older dogs’ joints benefit from the practice.

Benefits for Pets

Animal therapist Dan Thomas at London’s Pet Pavilion company claimed that “after a few minutes, even the most unruly of participants appeared to chill out, relax, and become calmer,” he also noted that the dog’s breathing seemed to be in sync with the human practitioners.

Whether or not pet yoga can provide all the benefits of standard classes, there is no doubt that pet owners want to incorporate their companions in every aspect of their lives. According to the 2011-2012 APPA National Pet Owners Survey, 62% of U.S. households own a pet.


Market for Niche Classes

That means 72.9 million homes have a pet, and the spending on these furry friends tops $50 billion annually. At least 16.5 million Americans practice yoga, according to statistics available from NAMASTA, the North American Studio Alliance, giving these two industries much overlap. Training videos are available online if you incorporate a pet practice at your studio.

What is Pet Yoga?

Pet yoga, doga, or cat yoga incorporates your pet into your regular yoga routine. It involves performing various yoga poses while allowing your furry friend to join the fun. While it may sound unconventional, pet yoga provides a unique opportunity for you and your pet to bond deeper.

The concept behind pet yoga is simple – practicing alongside your animal companion can create a sense of harmony and relaxation that benefits both of you. The gentle movements and stretches of traditional yoga can be modified to include your pet, making it an interactive experience that promotes physical activity for both parties.

Emphasis on Mindfulness

One of the critical aspects of pet yoga is the emphasis on mindfulness and being present at the moment with your pet. This practice encourages you to focus on the connection between yourself and your furry friend, fostering a sense of unity and tranquility.

Unlike traditional solo yoga sessions, where one might seek personal introspection or stress relief, pet yoga allows for shared experiences filled with laughter, playfulness, and joy. It’s not just about achieving perfect poses; it’s about creating memories with your beloved companion.

Bonding Time

So whether you have a flexible feline who loves stretching alongside you or an energetic pup who enjoys exploring new movements, incorporating pets into our yogic journeys brings us closer to nature. It deepens our bond with our animal friends.


Benefits of Pet Yoga for You and Your Pet

Pet yoga is a beautiful practice that benefits you and your furry friend. Let’s explore some advantages of incorporating pet yoga into your routine.

First and foremost, practicing pet yoga helps strengthen the bond between you and your pet. It provides quality time together, creating a deeper connection and enhancing trust. The shared experience of engaging in calming poses can promote relaxation not only in yourself but also in your pet.

Constructive Exercise

Another benefit is the physical exercise it offers. Like humans, pets need regular exercise to maintain their health and well-being. They can stretch their muscles, increase flexibility, improve balance, and even build strength by involving them in yoga sessions.

Additionally, pet yoga can positively affect the mental health of both you and your four-legged companion. The breathing exercises involved in yoga help reduce stress levels by promoting deep relaxation and mindfulness. This can be particularly beneficial if either you or your pet experiences anxiety or nervousness.

Social Time

Moreover, practicing pet yoga together can be a great way to socialize with other animal lovers with similar interests. Attending group classes or joining online communities dedicated to this activity allows you to connect with like-minded individuals while enjoying the company of your pets.

Taking part in pet yoga can provide entertainment for both parties involved! It’s not uncommon for our furry friends to bring laughter into our lives through their playful antics during these sessions.

Mental Well-Being

Countless benefits come from integrating pet yoga into your life – from strengthening the human-animal bond to improving physical fitness and mental well-being for you and your beloved companion.


How to Get Started with Pet Yoga

Ready to embark on a journey of relaxation and bonding with your furry friend? Pet yoga, also known as doga, is a beautiful way to deepen the connection between you and your pet while reaping the benefits of this ancient practice.

First, find a quiet space where you and your pet can comfortably practice together. Make sure there are no distractions or hazards that could potentially disrupt your session.

Next, gather any props or accessories that may enhance your experience. This could include yoga mats for you and your pet, blankets for added comfort, and toys or treats to keep them engaged.

Begin by introducing simple stretching exercises to warm up yourself and your pet. Gradually move into gentle poses such as downward-facing dog or seated twists that allow you to incorporate physical contact with your furry companion.

Observing and Gentle Guidance

Remember to listen to their cues throughout the practice. Some pets may naturally gravitate towards certain poses, while others may need more encouragement. Be patient and supportive as they explore their version of each pose.

As with any new activity, start slowly and gradually increase the duration of each session over time. Consistency is critical in building trust between you and your pet through yoga.

Don’t forget about relaxation! Take some time at the end of each practice to lie down next to one another in savasana (corpse pose), allowing yourselves a moment of stillness and tranquility together.

With these steps in mind, you’re working toward creating an enriching experience for yourself and your beloved companion through pet yoga. Enjoy this unique bonding opportunity that will undoubtedly bring peace and harmony into your lives!


Tips for Practicing Pet Yoga

1. Start with short sessions: When introducing your pet to yoga, it’s essential to start with shorter sessions and gradually increase the duration over time. This will help you and your furry friend ease into the practice without overwhelming them.

2. Create a calm environment: Before beginning a pet yoga session, create a calm and peaceful environment. Dimming the lights, playing soft music, or using essential oils can help set the mood for relaxation and bonding.

3. Use positive reinforcement: Like humans, pets respond well to positive reinforcement. Reward your pet with treats or praise when they successfully perform a pose or follow instructions during the session. This will motivate them to continue participating in future yoga sessions.

4. Follow their lead: Pay attention to your pet’s comfort level and body language during each pose. If they seem uncomfortable or resistant, adjust accordingly or move on to another pose that better suits their needs.

5. Incorporate playfulness: Pet yoga doesn’t have to be all serious! Encourage playfulness by incorporating toys or playful movements into certain poses. This can enhance the bond between you and your pet while making the practice more enjoyable.

6. Be patient and flexible: Remember that every animal is unique and may require different approaches when practicing pet yoga. Be patient with your pet as they learn new poses and adapt at their own pace.

7. Communicate through touch: During pet yoga sessions, use gentle touches to communicate love, support, and reassurance to your furry companion.

Following these tips for practicing pet yoga with your four-legged friend can create a harmonious experience that strengthens their physical health and deepens their emotional connection!


Popular Pet Yoga Poses

Ready to strike a pose with your furry friend? Here are some popular pet yoga poses that you can try out together:

1. Downward-Facing Dog: This classic yoga pose is perfect for you and your pet. Start on all fours, with your hands shoulder-width apart and your knees hip-width apart. Lift your hips toward the sky, creating an inverted “V” shape with your body. Your pet can join in by stretching their front paws forward and relaxing their head between their shoulders.

2. Cat-Cow Pose: Begin on all fours like in a downward-facing dog. As you inhale, arch your back and lift your tailbone while dropping your belly towards the floor – this is the cat pose. On the exhale, round your spine upwards like a scared cat – this is the cow pose. Your feline companion can mimic these movements beside or underneath you.

3. Tree Pose: Stand tall with feet hip-width apart and arms at sides (or raised above head). Shift weight onto one foot as you bend the opposite knee slightly outward to rest against the standing leg’s inner calf or thigh – avoid placing pressure directly on the joint area if possible! Hold the position while leaning into balance; use hand(s) for stability if needed.

4. Happy Baby Pose: Lie flat on your back with legs extended straight upward toward the ceiling; reach arms overhead alongside ears or keep them resting comfortably at sides if preferred.

5. Child’s Pose: Begin kneeling, then bring the upper body forward until the forehead touches the ground; extend arms forward or alongside the body, depending upon the comfort level.


Safety Precautions for Pet Yoga

When practicing pet yoga, it’s essential to prioritize safety for both you and your furry companion. Here are some necessary precautions to keep in mind:

1. Consult with your vet: Before starting any new exercise routine, consult your veterinarian to ensure your pet is healthy enough for physical activity. They can provide specific guidance based on your pet’s age, breed, and overall health.

2. Choose a suitable environment: Find a quiet and calm space in your home or backyard to practice pet yoga without distractions or hazards. Remove any objects that could harm you or your pet during the session.

3. Use proper equipment: Use a high-quality yoga mat for pets. This will provide traction and prevent slipping during poses. Consider using props such as blankets or bolsters to support your pet’s comfort and stability.

4. Start slow: Begin with gentle stretches and simple poses to allow you and your pet to acclimate to the practice gradually. Progressively increase the intensity of the poses over time as you build strength and flexibility.

5. Listen to cues from your pet: Pay close attention to how your furry friend reacts during each pose. If they show discomfort or distress, modify or discontinue the pose immediately.

6. Be mindful of temperature: Pets are more sensitive than humans regarding extreme temperatures; ensure the room is not too hot or cold before beginning a session.

Following these safety precautions can create a safe and enjoyable experience for yourself and your four-legged partner during pet yoga sessions. Remember, always put their well-being first.


Common Misconceptions about Pet Yoga

1. It’s Just a Trend: Some people may dismiss pet yoga as a fad, but it’s rooted in ancient practices like traditional yoga and mindfulness meditation. Pet yoga combines the benefits of physical exercise with the calming effects of spending time with your furry friends.

2. Only for Flexible People: Another misconception is that you must be an experienced yogi to practice pet yoga. In reality, anyone can participate, regardless of their level of flexibility or experience. The focus is on bonding with your pet while incorporating gentle movements and stretches.

3. Pets Don’t Enjoy It: Many believe that animals don’t enjoy participating in pet yoga, but this couldn’t be further from the truth! Most pets love the opportunity to interact with their owners in a new way while enjoying some physical activity themselves.

4. It’s Just for Dogs: Dogs are often associated with pet yoga because of their friendly nature; any well-behaved and trainable animal can join the fun. Cats, goats, rabbits, and birds make great companions during pet yoga sessions!

5. You Need Special Equipment: Some assume that practicing pet yoga requires expensive equipment or accessories designed specifically for pets. You only need a comfortable mat or blanket to share with you and your furry friend.

6. It’s All About Perfecting Poses: One common misconception is that every pose needs to be executed perfectly during pet yoga sessions. However, the true essence lies in embracing imperfection and focusing on the connection between you and your beloved companion.

By debunking pet yoga misconceptions, more people can discover its numerous benefits and enjoy quality time bonding with their pets through this unique form of exercise and relaxation.



Pet yoga is a beautiful practice that can bring numerous benefits to both you and your furry friend. From increased bonding and relaxation to improved physical health, this unique form of exercise is worth exploring.

Remember, when getting started with pet yoga, take it slow and be patient with your pet. Allow them to adjust to the new experience at their own pace. Use treats and positive reinforcement to make it a fun and rewarding activity for them.


As you progress in your pet yoga journey, remember the safety precautions, such as avoiding strenuous poses or putting too much pressure on your pet’s joints. Always listen to their cues and ensure they are comfortable throughout the practice.

Don’t let misconceptions deter you from trying out pet yoga. It is not just another passing trend but a genuine way to connect with your beloved companion while reaping the benefits of mindfulness and physical fitness yourself.

© Copyright – Aura Wellness Center – Publications Division

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