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Downward Dog

“As a doga teacher, the dogs have taught me to go with the flow, to be patient, and not to cling to how things should be,” says Brenda.
Written by Brandie Ahlgren | Photography by Jen Flynn
About four years ago a good friend of mine, Brenda Bryan, was doing dog massage at a Seattle Humane Society event at The Hotel Monaco in downtown Seattle. It was a doggie fashion show, using the shelter dogs as models. Her job was to offer massage to the models. The director of The Seattle Humane Society began asking her questions about the work she was doing and Brenda mentioned that in addition to being a licensed massage therapist, she was a yoga instructor. The director asked Brenda if she would be interested in developing a human and dog yoga class.

“I said yes without giving it a second thought,” Brenda recalls. It was then and there that Barking Buddha Doga was born.

Barking Buddha Doga takes classic yoga poses and adapts them to include our dogs, or dogis, as we call them in doga. The poses benefit the dogs through stretches and massage. Massage and stretching for our dogs increases circulation and range of motion, and encourages relaxation. When we learn to do these things in doga, we get to know our dogs well physically, and they learn to trust us as we stretch, lift and massage them.

When Brenda first began developing the class, she didn’t think much beyond a fun activity to do with your dog. But then she began to notice some changes in the way she interacted with her dogs, Honey and Gus (sadly, due to old age, Honey passed away in January).

“I began to feel more in tune with them,” Brenda remembers. “I had always loved them and felt close to them, and was a good dog parent. Now it seemed as though our connection had deepened. I was more present with them, and in our relationship. I began to notice more about their needs, personalities, how their bodies worked, and how they interacted with others.”

Brenda has also noticed some physical benefits from the practice. Her big dog, Honey, stopped limping after long walks. “When I got her seven years ago, her former owner told me she had an issue in her right leg and would limp if she overused it,” says Brenda. After three years of teaching the class, she says she can’t recall the last time Honey had an issue with her right leg. Students have also begun to report back that their dogs are noticeably calmer after the classes, that they feel closer to their dogs, and that some of the older dogis seem to be less stiff or sore after the class.

“As a doga teacher, the dogs have taught me to go with the flow, to be patient, and not to cling to how things should be,” says Brenda.

Sounds like we could all benefit from some doga!

To learn more about doga, visit Brenda's website. To find a doga class in Seattle, visit West Side Yoga & Doga.

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