The Sunday Times: Doga: bend, stretch and . . . do stop sniffing the others

Doga — yoga with your dog — is the latest thing in exercise. Katie Glass and four-legged friend join a class in search of inner peace, with added yapping, licking and nibbling.

If ever, during the honeymoon period of a romance, you and your partner are tempted to buy a dog — a soft, velvety black, wet-nosed puppy that you name after a character from your favourite TV show — here’s some advice: don’t. The double-doodle I bought with my ex-boyfriend is now 20 months old and the product of a broken home.

Poor Stringerbelle — a mix of goldendoodle and Labradoodle — has found herself the subject of a custody battle and a bitter doggie divorce. After months of arguing, I reluctantly rolled over and let my ex keep her, accepting occasional visits.

Like most divorced parents, I spoil my baby when I see her. I worry she blames herself for the break-up and I compensate by overfeeding her Bonios. Combined with my own post-break-up Häagen-Dazs habit, our weights are threatening to spiral out of control.

And so it is that, looking for healthier ways for us to bond, I stumble across doga — dog yoga — which, among hipsters and the cast of Made in Chelsea, is a thing. A doga class looks just the ticket, somewhere Stringerbelle can find inner peace while Mummy works on her revenge bod.

Don’t expect your pooch to be doing the downward dog, though. As Mahny Djahanguiri, the founder of one doga studio, DogaMahny, has explained: “I’m not stretching dogs out. It’s a human yoga class and your dog is off-lead.” It’s about relaxing and nurturing a relationship with your hound.

Some doga classes involve using your furry friend as a yoga block; others require you to lift them up. Since, like her mother, Stringerbelle is pretty but not petite (she weighs more than three stone), I decide against the latter and opt instead for a doga-lite class — a human hatha yoga session embracing canine consciousness.

We are told to arrive early for a meet-and-greet with the other dogs and humans before class, and turn up at a bright warehouse with wall-to-ceiling windows, green with plants and sweet with wafting incense. We have not even stepped into this peaceful Zen paradise before the barking begins.

Rover (whose name has been changed to protect his reputation), the resident dog, takes immediate exception to Stringerbelle. What ensues is a headache of yapping and nipping. In the mayhem, it’s impossible to say who the culprit is, but someone has sprayed on a yoga mat.

Eventually we find a space as far away from Rover as the studio allows. This happens to be near the shrine, where Stringerbelle immediately starts licking the candles. I give her my socks to chew to distract her, then settle down barefoot and try to relax. “Try to focus on your breathing,” the teacher advises, over Rover’s barking.



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