Dog and Human Stretching

 

This post was provided to Pet Guardian Angels of America by Noah Rue


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What Are the Benefits of Yoga and Stretching for You and Your Dog?

Yoga is a popular form of exercise that’s known for offering many health benefits, but have you ever considered doing yoga with your dog? If you’ve ever seen your dog do their own “downward dog” stretch, you’ll understand that a little yoga is a pretty natural transition for your pup. Dog yoga, or “doga,” allows your canine friend to get in on the fun and enjoy some of
yoga’s benefits, too.

Getting Started with Doga

If you’re ready to get started doing yoga with your dog, start by checking with your doctor and your dog’s vet to make sure that you’re both cleared for this new adventure. Then, try to find a local doga class that can guide you on how to introduce your dog to this activity.

The great thing about doga is that it’s flexible and there aren’t any rules about how to do it right or wrong. You can teach your dog to do some basic yoga poses with you by using treats to guide your dog into position. If you have a larger dog, he or she can also do some stretching next to you on the yoga mat, and you can help to guide your pup into stretching positions. You can also gently lift a smaller dog into poses.

When you’re just starting yoga with your dog, be patient and keep sessions short. High-energy dogs may have a hard time relaxing and focusing for too long, so try to incorporate a yoga session after you’ve taken your dog for a walk or done another fitness activity or exercise to help burn some energy off.

Overall Yoga Benefits

Yoga originated in India around 3,000 B.C. and it remains popular today because of the positive ways that it affects our bodies and our health. Yoga benefits include reducing stress levels and anxiety, lowering blood pressure (which also contributes to anxiety), and lowering cholesterol levels. Yoga’s also been said to help reduce migraines.

But yoga can positively affect the health of you and your dog in other valuable ways. Practicing yoga long-term helps to tone muscles and build muscle strength, and it can even help you to build stronger bones. Yoga also helps to strengthen the immune system, which is particularly valuable for anyone living with a compromised immune system.

Your dog can enjoy many of these same benefits, and may experience improved muscle tone, increased fitness, and even the loss of excess body fat. Because dogs have a natural instinct to stretch, they may quickly connect with the idea of doga and enjoy increased flexibility and range of motion after doing some positions. Hyperactive or easily distracted dogs can also learn to calm down and focus with regular sessions.

Versatile, Portable Exercise

Many dog owners have turned to doga because of its versatility. It can be tough to fit in a full workout around a hectic work schedule, but a doga session can be done nearly anywhere.  Doga requires just a yoga mat, whereas other types of exercise can require more equipment or even access to a gym.

When traveling with your pet, doga may be an ideal exercise option because of this versatility and portability. It can be performed indoors or outdoors and, after your pet (especially a senior pet) has been cooped up in the car for hours, this gentle stretching can help to relieve tension, stiffness, and pain.

Because doga is a low-impact form of exercise that can be modified as needed, it’s accessible to pets and their owners who might not be physically able to do other types of exercise. Dogs and their owners who have arthritis, mobility issues, and even some of the limitations that come with old age can all still enjoy a doga session.

Helpful Injury Recovery

When you are recovering from an injury or surgery, light stretching can help to keep you healthy without disrupting the healing process. During this time it’s important to follow your doctor’s directions, but once your doctor gives you permission to do some stretching, you may incorporate yoga into your pain management routine .

Stretching and yoga can help to relieve some of the pain you may experience if you’ve been on bed rest or are using a wheelchair, since gentle stretching can help soothe and relax tight, aching muscles. Your doctor may even recommend integrating yoga into your long-term chronic pain management plan. If your dog is recovering from an injury or surgery, with your
veterinarian’s guidance, your pup may be able to enjoy some of these same yoga benefits.

In addition to helping with injury recovery, doga can help you and your dog deal with longer-term pain and health issues. Yoga can help to relieve some of the symptoms of conditions like arthritis, back pain, sleep disorders, and even chemotherapy side effects. Dogs with arthritis or hip dysplasia can experience pain relief from gentle stretching. Always check with your dog’s vet or your doctor first before starting doga, since they may provide you with some guidance or limitations based on your health to help keep you safe.

Effective Injury Prevention

Many athletes use yoga to prevent injuries, and you and your dog can also use yoga to do the same. Sports tend to create body asymmetries because one side of the athlete’s body is dominant and can become overused. Practicing yoga can quickly help you to identify these asymmetries and focus on rebalancing and establishing strength on both sides of your body.

The active and passive stretching of yoga also helps to prevent injuries. Active stretching, which you perform by contracting opposing muscles to create the stretch, helps to develop suppleness in your muscles. Passive stretching, which uses your body weight or a stretching device, encourages your muscles to gradually lengthen. Both of these types of stretching make your muscles more elastic and pliable, which means they can better recover from the stress of workouts or from a stumble which could have caused an injury if your muscles were too tight.

These same principles apply to your dog. Cruciate and ACL injuries can occur when a dog gets a sudden high amount of exercise that their bodies weren’t prepared for. Because yoga helps to keep your dog fit and can increase your dog’s flexibility and range of motion, it can potentially help to prevent these types of injuries, as well as strains and sprains that can occur from excess tension in your dog’s tendons and ligaments.

Since doga can keep both you and your dog fit and healthy, you’re less likely to need a trip to the doctor or veterinarian.

Most dogs will grow to love yoga, but listen to what your dog is telling you. If your pup doesn’t enjoy doga sessions, don’t push the issue — after all, there are many other ways you and your dog can get fit and enjoy some time together, doga is just one of many options!

Noah Yarnol Rue is always looking where his next trip will take him . When he’s not traveling the world, he’s writing articles on the new things he learns. Noah also enjoys a good meme from time to time. You can find Noah on LinkedIn.