Yoga has been around for centuries, with people all over the world reaping the benefits — everything from reducing stress, promoting relaxation and improving the mind-body connection. Now, imagine, doing yoga with your dog — and both benefitting. Folks, we bring you “doga.”
“Doga is a human yoga practice that helps support the natural bond we have with our dog,” doga teacher Mahny Djahanguiri tells This Dog’s Life.
Djahanguiri had been teaching yoga classes for 20 years when she had a flash of inspiration after taking an Ashtanga yoga class: Why can’t our four-legged friend be involved in our practice?
Now teaching humans and their dogs in her London studio, and writing a book on the subject, Doga: Yoga for You and Your Dog, Djahanguiri is looking to open doga studios all across the globe.
But you may be thinking, why doga? According to Djahanguiri, doga works on the innate, symbiotic connection we all have with our dogs. When you experience stress and anxiety, your dog can pick up your tension, and it may reflect in his behavior and the way he interacts with other humans and other dogs. (In other words, “bad human!”)
To learn more about this phenomenon, This Dogs Life spoke with Djahanguiri about the doga practice.
This article was edited for clarity and brevity.
How did you discover doga?
Doga found me in Los Angeles in 2009. I have been a yoga teacher for 20 years, and the idea came to me as if I were struck by lightning. It was a vision, and it was powerful. It was a calling card from the divine because I never owned a dog. I walked out of my Ashtanga yoga mysore class at 8am in the morning, and I saw a dog outside. I thought, Wouldn’t it be great if dogs were allowed to come to class and experience yoga the way we humans do?
A yoga class provides that platform where humans can return to their own nature and true being. The dogs’ playfulness and running around off-lead takes us out of our heads and into our hearts. There is no such thing as “bad behavior” in doga; there’s only neurotic owners — and that’s where I do my work. I focus on the owner, not the dog.
How do you define doga?
Doga is a human yoga practice that allows dogs to interact with one another and ourselves during the practice.
I never invented the word “doga.” I have no idea who came up with it.
What are the benefits of doga for humans and pets?
Exactly the same. Our central nervous system is entwined with our dogs. Doga enhances your quality of life, brings joy and happiness and decreases anxiety and depression in human and dogs. Deeper sleep and good digestion are two of the main benefits for dogs and humans.
Can any dog be part of doga? What is their role in the class/experience?
Anyone can come. Kids, non-dog owners, beginner yoga students — as long as everyone is off lead. There are no roles. It’s all interconnected. Everything in nature coexists, and it’s mutually related.
The first thing in doga is to drop the stigma of ownership and give up ego. You cannot help a rescue dog with trauma if you constantly worry about their behavior. That’s my job. All you need to do is breathe. Your dog is an extension of you. The way you breathe, feel, think and move influences your dog. If you let go of judgment, then you can actually help your dog relax, and finally they can wander around and place themselves where they feel safe and secure.
What is your bond like with your dog? Do you do doga a lot?
My bond is perfect. My dog and I are in complete harmony. He watches my yoga practice each day and usually falls asleep in his basket.
He’s also amazing at being lifted (see Britain’s Got Talent 2017). He really doesn’t mind, and I can do whatever I want. He is so used to being placed on my knee, shin, etc.
Why did you decide to write the book?
I didn’t. A publisher approached me after I appeared with my dog on a famous TV show. I was reluctant, as I don’t think books work. People see the cute pictures, but they never read the actual content. We are focusing on re-publishing the second edition alongside a DVD, so owners get a deeper understanding of what doga entails.
What is next for you?
Taking over the world. I want to tour each country and educate and train yoga teachers in the method of Dogamahny TM.
I want to open a doga studio in each country that will use yoga as a tool to aid humans with mental health and support rescue dogs with trauma. Each center will be a pet therapy research institute. Of course, we are starting with London, but ideally, I’d like to kick off my vision in Los Angeles because that’s where doga found me. To return back to LA would be my ultimate dream.