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Sarasota Friday, Jul. 27, 2018 2 years ago

Pet-friendly yoga

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Pet yoga offers a way to bond with your favorite furry companions.
by: Shane Donglasan Community Reporter
Yoga from the Heart instructor Dianne Ochiltree in chair pose with her and her Labrador, Sally.

Yoga can improve your balance, breathing and overall physical and mental well-being, but yoga isn’t just for humans anymore.

Our four-legged companions are getting in on the action as well. There are numerous ways to practice yoga with pets, offering a new spin on the ancient art. Several area yoga instructors shared how our furry friends can enhance our own yoga workout.

Canine clarity 

Lynn Burgess of Sarasota's Yoga from the Heart began her dog yoga, or “doga,” practice by accident.

After a clients realized she didn’t have enough time to bring her dog home, she asked Burgess if she could bring her pooch to their private yoga session. Since then, Burgess has been offering one-on-one dog-friendly yoga sessions for clients. The dogs aren’t doing any yoga poses themselves, except for maybe the occasional downward-facing dog. Instead, doga offers a way for owners to focus on their own yoga practice while their dogs are present, nurturing a greater sense of connectedness between the two.

“One of the biggest benefits is the attention the dog gets,” Burgess said. “You see people walking their dogs on the phone, but in a setting like a yoga studio, the owner is really focused on the animal. You can see the pet really take in and appreciate that undivided attention.”

Burgess said a benefit for yogis is witnessing first-hand how a dog moves to improve one’s poses. Many poses are inspired by animal movements, including cat pose and downward or upward-facing dog.

“Animals tend to move with their entire bodies in a seamless, integrated way, and as we watch an animal move, we can begin to teach people that the whole yoga pose is meant to be a beautifully integrated movement of the entire body,” Burgess said.

Doga also offers a way for both owner and dog to relax and share clarity of mind. Burgess said dogs become attuned to the calmness of the owner and the environment.

Feline fitness 

Cat Depot offers a yoga class that gives “namaste” new meaning. “Namastray Yoga” is a way to destress with the cat shelter’s feline critters through a light-hearted yoga session surrounded by kittens. 

“Yoga makes you more aware of the present, more aware of yourself and your feelings,” said yoga instructor Veronika Schachtner. “It also improves your physical fitness, and yoga with kittens combines all those things, but adds a lot more fun to the experience.”

Schachtner teaches the class the third Friday of the month at Cat Depot’s Sarasota education center, where two or three kittens join in on the class. 

“We like to have at least three kittens because one will always be shy and the other two will play with one another,” she said. “It’s a different experience each time because the kittens have different personalities.”

Schachtner admits that focusing on your breathing and poses can be difficult with kittens around, but the attention they give is welcome. Even the most senior of yogis might struggle in a room with such friendly felines.

“I'm the first one to giggle when they roll over and start tumbling,” Schachtner said. "Nothing is more relaxing than laughing a lot and getting kitten snuggles."

The class also offers a way for the kittens to socialize, spend some time in a new environment, and even find their forever home.

“It helps them become more confident, and they all end up getting adopted very quickly afterward,” said Claudia Claudia Harden, Cat Depot's director of communications. "Several times, someone has gone home with one of the kittens after the class."

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