Yoga has made it into pop culture and daily routine, lauded for its beneficial effects on both mind and body. So when we met the creator of Doga, Mahny Djahanguiri who developed the concept of yoga for both dogs and their owners, we were excited to understand more. Mahny has pioneered Doga from puppyhood through to various TV spots, including This Morning and Jimmy Kimmel, and has now collected a worldwide fanbase. Curious? Watch Mahny and her adorable pooch, Robbie, in action here. If you feel inspired to make a dogi out of your pooch, dog yoga might just be for you (especially if you already enjoy yoga!)
Describing Doga as a way of ‘letting go of ownership’ Mahny is keen to promote the connection Doga creates between dog and owner as an equal relationship. In the same way as yoga helps us focus, find calm and let go of ourselves, Doga allows a union between two minds and two bodies – yogi and dogi.
Interestingly, Mahny’s previous work with disadvantaged children lead to the principles of Doga. Passionate about healing, Mahny found a way to infuse creativity with animal welfare. Creating a place of safety is vital to Doga, where owners must lose their ownership and give up their command. Mahny explains the human must first of all be coaxed into focusing on themselves, their state of mind and become aware of their body. “Dogs will learn to absorb their owner’s calm,” she adds. With practice, and with commitment from the owner (sessions are usually 90 minutes), “dogs begin to imitate you, curious as to why you’ve changed your inner state.”
Mahny stresses that the onus is very much on owners, as a co-dependent, to be connected with our own breathing and body before we can influence our dogs. She has carefully designed her dog yoga positions so that they are suitable for the human yoga level as well as the dog. The goal is for dog and owner to actively adapt the poses so two are working together as one. This might seem challenging, but the dog is never forced to participate. So while you and your pooch might not have mastered the Mountain Pose, Mahny’s approach is very open to adaptation.
Seasoned dogi, Robbie, is Mahny’s white maltese rescue pup. A complete natural, Robbie accompanies Mahny in most sessions, either by sitting on her hip, knee or thighs. Introduced to Doga at just four months old, Robbie and Mahny have a special and very trusting relationship.
Patience lies at the core of Doga. Mahny welcomes dogs of all breeds, size and shape but adds they must be social (as must their owner). She pays special attention to rescue dogs, offering an initial consultation, as they may arrive to sessions feeling jumpy or nervous. Importantly, as lots of owners are quite nervous before starting too, Mahny is keen to create a supportive and calm atmosphere. “You should never feel ashamed of not being able to control your dog,” she adds, “and I always make sure owners send me a bio, like a small description, of their background and relationship with their dog – it really benefits the class.” Practising yoga at home is also encouraged.
Ultimately, it’s Mahny’s goal for Doga to become a new type of yoga therapy, combined with pet therapy. Mahny’s own brand of Doga comes from a therapeutic approach and she’s interested in the positive effect Doga could have on the lives of owners living with blindness and even other conditions like autism.
No stranger to TV, Mahny and Robbie will be wowing the judges (and their dogs), and conducting a dog yoga session, on Britain’s Got Talent this Saturday 15th April, on ITV. If you’d like to find out more about Doga, visit Mahny’s website and check out Mahny’s book DOGA: Yoga For You and Your Dog (published by Hamlyn).
Read all about All Four Paws’ team members Nicky and Rigby’s Doga session. Nama-paw.