India has had a long relationship with animals. The earliest archaeology in the Indian subcontinent has found artifacts from 3000 B.C.E that indicate various ways in which the early people of India interacted with animals. The significance of animals developed in later Yoga traditions and played a definitive role in the shape and form of Yoga: many postures (asanas) come to carry the names of animals. Animals were noted for their particular abilities and accomplishments. To imitate these fine qualities was considered a sign of spiritual attainment. To name a few: Cow Head’s Pose (Gomukha-asana),Tortoise Pose (Kurma asana), the Rooster Pose (Kukkuta asana), Lion’s Pose (Simha asana) and my most favorite Downward Dog(Adho Mukha Svanasana).

Free like a bird, strong like a lion, with senses well protected like those of a tortoise. (Kalpa Sutra, Jacobi, 261)

In a recent interview Denise Kaufman, a prominent yoga teacher in Los Angeles, commented “Animals move; people can learn about movement from animals. House pets stretch all day long, creating space in their joints. Animals sit in different kinds of positions. Monkeys and apes do things with their hands. Perhaps as humans we need to reclaim our four leggedness. Getting down on all fours stimulates the pranic flow. Sitting in chairs tightens the hamstrings and the lower back. Animals don’t sit on furniture; they have not built things contrary to their nature.” From her perspective, Yoga involves recapturing our animal physicality, reconditions the body to establish itself within a non-technologically enhanced environment.

Yoga is constantly evolving. Yogis are always experimenting.

Soon you will be able to learn Doga at home. Suzi Teitelman’s first Doga DVD is almost out. The trailer is here, and you can get more information on her web site. Doga classes at Crunch Fitness is held in New York City on Tuesday mornings at 9:30 in downtown Manhattan. Check for more information. (Let her know if you are interested in the first copies!)

Then why not practice yoga and include our animals, specifically our dogs to this experience? Of course at first the therapeutic effects of practicing yoga with a dog seems very limited to the physical. But one can not deny the calming effects and a bonding experience between a dog and its owner.

“It is said that when you relax, you smell a certain way. And dogs smell that, and in turn they relax. This happens every time you do yoga. The dogs feel the way you feel.” says Suzi Teitelman a doga teacher and the Director of Yoga for Crunch Fitness NYC. She offers interactive partner yoga classes for dog owners. She adds “Doga is for all dogs: Old dogs, young dogs, sick and healthy. Nothing can stop a dogi! All dogs do doga instinctually, and what we are doing, is bringing more out of each other: going deeper, getting happier, and loving more. Dogs are naturally in a start of awareness, totally present in each moment, and willing to let go. We have a lot to learn from a dog, and being present and aware is one of them.”

Suzi explains: “In the Doga poses, we will help our dogs go further in the stretches, and they will help us go deeper too. The poses are based on Hatha postures, and the dogs and humans stretch, breathe, bond and relax in sync. The weight of their body, their scent and their love all work together and that makes doga a complete spiritual experience. Chanting, massage and accupressure are a large part of doga as well as reflexology on all the paws, and on our pads too. Sun salutations are probably Coali’s favorite (her cocker spaniel). He loves inhaling his arms up, and exhaling down, inhaling his back legs up and then exhaling down! Doga is the most amazing bonding experience you will ever have with your pet.”