Animals Enjoy Stretching Too – Incorporating Our Pets in Our Practice

            Specific to the animal-loving yogis out there, the experience of incorporating our animal friends into our yoga practice can be a great way of getting out of the same routine.  With some studios offering the occasional workshops featuring cute and intriguing titles such as Doga, Meowga, and even Goat Yoga, results may vary in terms of what you may experience.  Although this may seem to be an emerging trend, many at-home practitioners have already experienced, either advertently or inadvertently, having their beloved pets involved in their practice.

Bonding and Trust through a Trained Practice

Some yogis have trained their cats and dogs to participate in poses with them, from down dog to balancing poses.  Dogs (and maybe even cats?) may love the engagement and attention from this, perhaps even getting a good stretch from it. Along with the positive attention pets receive, practicing yoga with a willing pet could be a great way to bond and build trust.  Particularly with dogs, building their trust could make them better in other areas of obedience training. 

Likewise, dogs in particular have been shown in studies to understand and respond to our facial expressions (Buzhardt, Lynn, DVM, Incorporating, or even just having dogs around when in a calming state, can help them learn to recognize your emotions better, being around you more when you are calm, which may allow for emotional bonding.

Lastly, there is a letting go of the sense of ownership in our pets when we allow them to practice with us.  As a dog should not be forced into a balance pose with you if they are not comfortable with it, having the dog off leash and engaged in a partnered balance pose helps to earn trust and the ability to rely on each other. Over time, this earned trust in one another could result in reducing stress and anxiety in a dog.

Spontaneous Play and Love through an Inadvertent Practice

For those with pets less willing, yet more inquisitive or even deliberately disruptive to an at-home practice, the experience of practicing yoga with our pets can be more playful, spontaneous, or comical.  This inadvertent pet-incorporated practice is usually what I got to experience with each of the pets in my home.  My cat typically sat right in my view, meowed loudly, or would head-bump me from down dog to try to throw me off.  My dog (below, leaving her paw prints all over my just-wiped-down mat) was not so interested in my attempts with her on partnered balance poses or down dogs on command, but she never hesitated to give a kiss or some sniffing noises in my ear whenever I was in my most serene moment.

(Sorry, were you cleaning this?)

My green-cheeked conure particularly enjoyed disrupting me, often perching himself on top of my head whenever I was in a balance pose, or biting any fingers or toes he came in contact with on the floor (see photo below).

(My conure sitting inquisitively under a mountain pose.)

Through this, I learned to overcome distraction in my practice, all the while in amazement with how long the conure could remain perched on my head throughout a chaturanga. Practicing with my pets around reminded me that even through moments when I was focused on my internal self, I was constantly reminded of the love my pets had for me that they showed through their constant interruptions.