Dogs de-stress with yoga classes

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The Independent Online

Roll out the exercise mats, cue the ambient chant tape and prepare for the stress-relieving exercises with a spot of deep panting.

Roll out the exercise mats, cue the ambient chant tape and prepare for the stress-relieving exercises with a spot of deep panting.

Welcome to Britain's first "doga" classes - yoga for dogs, a new fashion that could only be a US import.

Pampered dogs have been taking open-air classes in Battersea Park in London. Sessions cost £45. In a week when the Daily Telegraph launched a new pet obituary section - its first column appeared yesterday with tributes to Becca and Bella, a pair of guinea pigs "cruelly taken by a fox", and Lily and Tabitha, both cats - perhaps doga is the logical next step.

The classes have been set up by the firm Pet Pavilion and begin with an ice-breaking dog agility session. The animals are put through their paces, leaping through tyres and scaling steep ramps before the serious business of relaxation can begin. Owners then take a place on the mats for the doga session proper, placing the dogs between their legs and stroking them to calm them after their exertion.

"With your legs apart and sitting upright, breathe in and out encouraging the dogs to become aware of your bodies, as you are aware of your body," explains instructor Romana Pippi to the class. "Separate your fingers and stroke your dog from the head to the tail with love."

Humans are asked to lift up one of their companion's paws as they inhale, then bring it down on the outward breath, like shaking hands in slow motion. After a particularly deep breath, owners stretch up and back, lifting the dogs on to their hind legs, with both looking upwards to the sky - the "upward-paw pose", or Sun Salutation, a position used to greet each day.

Later, the instructor urged the class: "Throw your shoulders back, keep breathing, and make the dog longer. Embrace the dog with one hand for support and with the other stretch up and over so you are both stretching sideways."

The class winds down with the four-legged friends stretching out on their reclining owners. Many are so dog tired they simply nod off.

It might be time for a tai-chi class next. Or maybe tai-chihuahua.

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