The craze, known as dog yoga (or doga), began when South African yoga instructor Suzette Ackermann began to incorporate her one-eyed Pekinese, called Snowball, into her morning yoga regime.
“Snowball’s like a Zen Buddha,” Ackermann says. “She goes into all the poses. She just doesn’t care, which is perfect in the yoga sense that she has no ego, no attachment, she’s just present.”
Ackermann soon took up a suggestion to start her own dog yoga class, and the craze has since spread to Japan and the US. Now canines everywhere can enjoy a morning of gentle massage and stretching to the sound of relaxing music.
According to Ackermann, classes are occasionally interrupted by small disagreements between pooches, which can result in growling or scraps (not very Zen) but more often than not, the animals seem to enjoy it. Many owners have noticed behavioural improvements in their pets and claim to enjoy the classes as a form of bonding.
Apparently sausage-dogs are the easiest to work with due to their long, stretchy bodies- although Ackermann welcomes all breeds to her classes.
Ackermann has plans to expand her dog yoga business. She is currently training in dog massage and dog acupuncture, and is developing plans for an illustrated children’s book to feature a selection of simple try-at-home poses.
The South African is also keen to try her methods on other animals such as cats, although she has reservations regarding their sociability.
Although there is absolutely no conclusive evidence that yoga can benefit dogs or other animals, it can be a good way to relax if you are a human. To find out more about the benefits of yoga, please visit our yoga therapy factsheet.