Dog yoga? Woof!

2011-10-28 12:28

Hong Kong’s pampered canines may have their own spas, but it can still be difficult for a dog to find inner peace. Help is now at hand in the shape of yoga instructor Suzette Ackermann and her yoga class – for dogs.

During her classes, owners massage their pets before bringing them into postures such as the “cobra” pose, in which the hind legs are stretched out to the rear, as soothing music plays.

“You want to try and calm the dog down, so just touch along either side of the spine, then the rib cage, then the belly,” she tells the class.

Ackermann, a South African dance and yoga teacher who started the sessions a year ago, leads the class in tandem with her seven-year-old Pekingese who, she says, has been her inspiration.

Snowball, a one-eyed animal with fluffy white fur, has become a local celebrity through dog yoga, and is often recognised in the street from her TV appearances.

“Snowball’s like a Zen Buddha,” Ackermann says. “When I practise (yoga) at home, she will just come up to the mat with me. She does it naturally. “You can lie her down on her back to do shavasana (corpse pose), and she’ll stay there.”

Ackermann and Snowball have been doing yoga together at home for years, but the idea of teaching classes in dog yoga, or “doga”, was suggested by a Japanese groomer at Pawette.

Pawette is the “deluxe pet boutique, salon and spa” that organises the classes with Ackermann.

The class is sometimes interrupted by dogs getting into a fight, yapping loudly or running off.

One Yorkshire terrier/Pomeranian cross, Kopi, - aged one - seems as though he would rather be running around a field or after some or other animal than working to align his chakras.

But other dogs are keener to take part, and lie calmly as their paws are moved into different positions by owners who are themselves in seated yoga poses.

The owner of rebellious Kopi, Malaysian chemical company employee Pauline Kang, says her pet has become more peaceful since starting the classes.

In addition to its calming properties, doga can benefit dogs with hip and knee problems, Ackermann says, and help those with asthma. In fact, one canine participant is regularly brought along with his own inhaler.

Ackermann has sought advice from a dog acupuncturist and is taking classes in dog massage.

She is also putting together a book about Snowball and doga – an illustrated children’s story with basic postures for the family and their dog to try at home.

There are no immediate plans to extend the concept of doga to other animals yet.

“Cats have minds of their own, so they’re not very sociable, but they could probably do it.

“I’ve had responses from people going: ‘Are you serious, dogs doing yoga?’

“In one class I ended up with a client’s baby in one hand and a dog in the other.

“It’s good fun. We have a lot of laughs,” she says.

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