ALEXANDRIA, VA - The pet parents do yoga poses, like downward-facing dog, as their pups walk around the room and socialize, sniffing each other and the people on their yoga mats. This is doga, a fun, relaxing way to connect with your pet while getting some exercise.
At EMMAvet in Alexandria, Va., owner and veterinarian Veronica Jarvinen decided to begin doga classes a few months ago. She does a bending pose as she pets Emma, her beloved dog whose name is on the sign at the emergency pet care practice.
"Everybody giggles the whole time, and dogs roam from person to person," she said. "I think it just brings everybody a lot of joy."
Doga was started by an American fitness coach more than 15 years ago. Some of the poses the dogs do naturally take time for the humans to learn.
"You can do puppy pose where your hips stay up and everything else kind of stays the same," instructor Ashley Stewart told the group. She is a yoga teacher and dog lover who decided to give teaching doga a try.
"It's definitely less focused on the human yoga practitioner and more focused on the human and the dog connecting," she explained. The dogs start to emulate what the humans are doing," she said, as a black Labrador rested next to its owner who was doing a yoga pose flat on the floor. But the class also expects unusual distractions, Stewart said with a laugh. "We often have accidents that we are cleaning up or dogs that are barking."
Doga helps create a stronger bond between the pet parent and pup.
Wendy Kuo, a veterinarian in Maryland, brought her two dogs to her first doga class. "Dogs have so much love to give, and I felt that when I was practicing with them," she said.
Stewart cuddled a cute little gray poodle that licked her face as she asked the group members to lean over to their ankles.
Mike Salinas, who has been taking yoga for some time, said the best part of doga is snuggling with the dogs. "All dogs want our affection and attention," he said. "It's relaxing. Doga also provides a good workout."
Stewart pushes the class members to reach up high with their right arms. "We're just going to hold here for a second," she said.
Doga newbie Celina Williams found the poses challenging, since she had not taken a yoga class before. She signed up for the class because her dog could come with her, which she thought was great.
College student Beth Barrett arrived without a dog since she can't fit one in her life right now. "I love dogs and I love yoga," she said, "so it's a perfect combination of both."
As the class ended with the resting pose, both the people and dogs were ready to relax, including Marieke Johnson and her best friend, a sweet terrier mix named Chewy.
"Maybe doga is a little crazy," she said, "but it brings more of the peace aspect of yoga to you and the animal, and also helps with the bond you create."
Stewart thanked the class for coming. "The dog lover in me, honors the dog lover in you. Good job, dogs," she said enthusiastically.