Photo: Michael Nagel for New York Times“Jobs are disappearing. Mortgage payments are looming. Change is everywhere, but your dog remains steadfast. So, why not spend some time together?” asks a Manhattan teacher.

Sure. It’s the most natural thing in the world: take your dog for a walk and forget your troubles. Except that in this instance the lady does not mean walk, or run, the dog. She means take him to yoga class and bond with him through meditative bends and stretches or just by lying doggo on a mat. Do have a look at the slide show on the New York Times page.

It’s the sort of fad we’ve learned to expect among childless Japanese career women, but doga is catching on in American cities too — perhaps for the same reason. Kari Harendorf, quoted above, teaches doga not because dogs need it but because “your dog needs your attention, and bonding with your pet is good for your health”. She says it reduces stress hormones and blood pressure. Oh, and it pays the instructor $15 to $25 a class.

Inevitably, someone has written a book about it. Brenda Bryan, a yoga and doga teacher in Seattle, finds that her loosely structured classes are filled with humour — “laughing is spiritual,” she says. In one of her early classes there was a dog that just didn’t get it; it kept barking. She got past the point of wanting to strangle him and laughed it off; the dog was having the best time of his life.

Not everyone is smiling at the new trend. “Doga runs the risk of trivialising a 2,500-year-old practice into a fad,” thunders an experienced yoga instructor. “To live in harmony with all beings, including dogs, is a truly yogic principle. But yoga classes may not be the most appropriate way to express this.”

Maybe. But health insurers are beginning to offer cover for pets, so why not dignify your pooch a little further and offer him a dash of spirituality with his exercise? ~ New York Times, April 9

Carolyn Moynihan

Carolyn Moynihan is the former deputy editor of MercatorNet