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Natural Awakenings Fairfield Cty/Housatonic Valley, CT

Yoga for Pets: Inviting Them to Stretch and Play

Sep 04, 2015 02:28AM ● By Mary Oquendo

This is a familiar scenario for those who practice yoga at home. You are in the middle of your favorite yoga position when your pet decides to wander over and entangle himself in your arms and legs. Does he believe you are playing or, better yet, inviting him to play? Is he simply accepting your invitation and joining in the fun?

Instead of being annoyed at the interruption, this could be used as a bonding opportunity to incorporate a fun exercise regimen for you and your pets. As with yourself, before beginning any exercise program with your pets, talk to your veterinarian regarding any limitations, as well as how to interpret when your pet has had enough or is in pain.

There is a movement called doga; it is the practice of including your dog when you do yoga. Even though there is not a catchy name for it, your cat can join in as well. Practitioners of doga look to achieve harmony with their pets through meditation, gentle massage and stretching. The practitioner may help their pet achieve poses or use them as props. The key is the pet’s willingness to participate.

As it gains in popularity, yoga studios are beginning to offer doga classes. If you would like to try this at home with your willing pet, here are two starter poses.

Pose #1
Sit and begin to breathe deeply. Allow your pet to find a comfortable spot on or near you. Breathe together. Rest your hands on your pet, while sitting up straight for two minutes.

Pose #2
Start in a seated posture with your legs outstretched with your pet in front of you and in between your legs. Begin to massage your pet. You can add a gentle stretch to your pet’s legs. You can also lean over your pet while you massage him.

“The doga classes I’ve attended started out with a lot of tail sniffing as the dogs check out their surroundings and neighbors. But, by the end of class, the dogs are each relaxed on their human’s mat, usually sprawled out to enjoy the new space, which has been created within their bodies. It’s really a joy to watch the transformation,” says Elyse Horvath of Natural Paws in Deerfield, Illinois.

Not your cup of tea? You can still help your pet regain or retain his level of comfort, mobility and quality of life with simple stretching exercises. Here are three such exercises.

Stretch the hip flexors. These muscles allow your pet to move his legs and hips. From a standing position, grasp a back leg just above the knee. Move the leg back straight out behind your pet’s body gently. When the leg will not go back any further without pressure, stop and hold the leg in that position for 15 to 30 seconds. Repeat this stretch two or three times with each back leg.

Stretch the shoulder flexors. These muscles strengthen your pet’s front legs. From a standing position, grasp a front leg above the elbow and place your other hand under the elbow to stabilize the leg. Gently move the leg forward until you meet resistance and hold for 15 to 30 seconds. Repeat two or three times for each front leg.

Stretch the back. Having treats handy will make this exercise go smoothly. From a standing position with you to one side of your pet, show your pet the treat while slowly moving the treat towards the tail. What you are looking to do is to have him turn his head and then his body towards the treat. Hold him in this position for 15 to 30 seconds and give him the treat. Move to the other side and repeat this exercise. Do two or three alternating stretches on each side.

Any type of stretching exercises is especially important as your pet ages. The older pet becomes prone to joint problems, loss of muscle tone and size, and decreased flexibility. It is crucial to their well-being that you incorporate some type of stretching exercises to their routine.

Mary Oquendo is a Reiki master, advanced crystal master and certified master pet tech pet first aid instructor. She is the co-owner of Hands and Paws-Reiki for All in New Milford. She can be reached at See ad, page 57.

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