Yoga and Pets

Living with dogs and cats, I find I wish that I could live the life of a much loved, happy, well cared for pet, instead of being a hard working human.  It has led me to the following thoughts.  Pet parents, I think you can relate, whether or not you practice yoga.

I love yoga. I love dogs and cats.  One particularly meditative morning, while lying on the mat, waiting for class to start, I, admittedly, let my mind wander.  I got to thinking about my dog, and how she lives an uncomplicated life, and how lovely it might be to spend a day seeing the world through her eyes. She has simple needs.  I want to have simple needs, like her, and other dogs, and cats.  They seem to have gotten the zen, yoga teachings of the spirit thing down already, naturally. What do I mean exactly?

Well, in yoga we are constantly taught to focus.  The goal is to not let thoughts or worries get into your head during your practice. Animals focus.  If you ever watched a cat hunt, and then pounce upon a mouse, you will see that there is almost nothing that can distract them.  There is no attention deficit disorder with dogs and cats.  They don’t multitask.  Think of a border collie working a field of sheep.  Precisely. Focused.

We are reminded to not let bad thoughts take over our mind.  By being able to let them go, we gain peace of mind.  Dogs and cats don’t ruminate. As far as I can tell, they don’t hold grudges.  They are excellent at forgiving (ok, most of them).

Yoga teaches us to remain calm in stressful situations.  It helps us find serenity when needed.  Dogs and cats don’t beep on the road when someone is clearly texting in the car in front of them.  They don’t flip out when they hit every single traffic light  when they are in a hurry (which is never, as in, they never seem to be in a hurry).

In class, we are reminded to live in the moment.  Dogs and cats sure do! They stop and smell the roses, … and telephone poles, and mailboxes, and every other scent that they can pick up with their sensitive noses.

Yoga teaches patience.  We refer to it as our yoga “practice”, not yoga class. That is important, because yoga is a slow progression of skill, strength and flexibility.  Cats and dogs are infinitely patient.  They wait all day for us to get home.  They greet us as if we have been gone for a week, even if we were only away an hour.

I love that so many poses are named after animals.  Every single class we do “down dog”.








We always have a “cat” and then “cow” back flexion and extension sequence.








There is also an “up dog”, deftly demonstrated here by this French Bulldog.


There are other animal poses, such as lizard, crow, pigeon, bird of paradise, fish, eagle, dolphin…. to name a few.  But the dog and cat poses are pretty much the meat and potatoes of the practice.



We are reminded to “leave our ego at the door”.  I hate when there are mirrors in a yoga studio.  It makes it harder to “leave my lack of ego at the door” if I am comparing myself to anyone else.  No mirrors also make it more likely that I will “not take myself too seriously”, another yoga mantra.  It is hard enough managing to do the pose.  If I start judging myself in the mirror while doing it, game over.

Dogs and cats have no egos. They don’t care if they gained a few pounds. They don’t let bad hair days get to them, because they don’t have bad hair days.

At the end of every yoga practice, you do the final resting pose, or dead man’s pose.  It is the relaxation reward that you earn after the hard work of the previous poses.  Dogs and cats sure know how to relax.  They have got that down pat.  Again, I envy them for their single-mindedness.  Life would be less complicated if all we thought about all day was when we were going to eat, nap, and maybe get a walk or belly rub.  No wonder my two favorite poses are happy baby and child’s pose.  Easy, simple… it’s a theme.

I wish for you a carefree, calm, and relaxing day. Just breathe…



Dr. Dawn
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