Try this five-step yoga session at home with your dog or cat, and notice how much better you feel afterwards, mind and body!
Many of us attend yoga classes, or have at least given it a try. But yoga with your dog or cat? Well, let’s just say that any kind of partner yoga offers an altogether different experience than your typical yoga class.
Yoga with dogs and cats is particularly special because it takes advantage of the fact that we’re already used to communicating in ways beyond the constraints of ordinary language. Meditating and moving together, and letting go of expectations, we are able to embrace a practice that strengthens our bond and creates memories to last a lifetime.
Here is a yoga sequence for you to try at home with your companion. First, remember to honor your body and your companion – it’s okay to improvise, and it’s okay if one or more of these aren’t exactly what your dog or cat has in mind! Be mindful of your own needs and the needs of your furry partner, and the yoga practice will unfold as it’s meant to.
Step 1: Breathing together
Take a few moments to let go of distractions and focus on this time together. If your animal partner will sit still, that’s great. If not, don’t fret! Just take the time to bring the focus inward to your own breath and become aware of your animal’s breathing. In yoga, we call the breath “prana”, which means life giving force.
Step 2: Warm up
These are simple movements of the neck and shoulders to release tension. If your furry yoga partner is small enough, let him rest while enfolded by your legs as you bring the soles of your feet together. For larger dogs, you can separate your legs into a “V” position or just keep him close by. Look over your right shoulder, then your left. Drop your chin to your chest to release any tension in the neck. Then roll your shoulders up towards your ears and away from your chest. As you feel your chest opening and expanding, try to let go of any tensions or anxieties that are preventing you from being present in the moment.
Step 3: Standing stretches
Wide-leg stretch: Start with your legs spread about four feet apart, your toes pointing forward. Flex your upper body down towards the floor for a nice hamstring stretch while placing your hands on your animal. Keep him as your focal point and take three to five breaths together before coming back up to a standing position. Be mindful of your lower back; come up slowly on an inhale, with a flat back.
The warrior poses are about strength (great for the hip flexors!). This side lunge is a great pose to incorporate into a yoga practice, especially if your companion animal is the right size and weight to hold in your arms. Standing with your legs four feet apart, turn your right toes out directly to the side and your left foot in – just enough to bring the left hip around. Bending the right knee, come into a side lunge, being careful not to let your knee go past the ankle. Holding your animal in your arms, feel your strength and poise as a duo. Feel the strength you glean from each other. Repeat on the opposite side, starting by turning your left toes directly to the side and right toes in.
Step 4: Seated twist
It’s important to remind the spine of all the directions it can move in. A seated twist is a good way to unwind your yoga practice and move towards relaxation. As you inhale, think about lengthening the spine; as you exhale, try to move gently into the twist.
Step 5: Savasana
Here’s a much deserved time of relaxation! Taking the time to be still can be the most rewarding part of any yoga practice, especially when you’re practicing with your dog or cat! Again, it’s okay if your companion isn’t in the mood to be perfectly still: embrace the moments however they come, with the primary intention of just sharing a little uninterrupted time with your animal, communicating to him your gratitude and how much he fills your life with joy.
Step 6: Namaste
To finish, bring your hands (and paws) together and say “Namaste,” which means “the light in me honors the light in you.”
Practicing yoga with your animal brings you closer to him, and enables you to communicate with him in a new way. Most importantly, it gives you the opportunity to take time out from your usual daily distractions and spend time with a being you love, devoid of expectations and any kind of agenda. Whatever happens during your yoga time, the main goal is served: breathing and moving together, being together, and relaxing together.