Paw in Hand: A Connected Energy

How a local animal shelter is giving new meaning to companionship

Lisa leaning with dog

The unconditional love, distinct intuitiveness and immense loyalty that make dog “man’s best friend” are some of life’s most rewarding experiences. In actively nurturing this special relationship,  there are plenty of ways to bond with your four-legged friend – jogging, playing fetch or teaching him or her a few new tricks, to name a few. Here in the Tampa Bay area, dog owners are spending quality time with their canine companions practicing one of man’s most ancient sciences:  yoga.

This relatively new practice, known as doga, is partner yoga that allows pets and pet owners to strengthen their bodies and bonds while destressing and relaxing. Dog owners don’t have to search too far to participate in this growing trend, as SPCA Tampa Bay offers doga sessions that support serenity and a great cause.

SPCA’s monthly doga sessions are part of the organization’s Sniff University program – Sniff U for short – which offers a wide range of educational courses and workshops for pet owners and their animals. Hosted at SPCA’s 10-acre Largo facility, doga sessions are offered one Sunday a month for a nominal fee that supports the SPCA and its programs.

SPCA doga instructor Lisa Recchione focuses her session on creating memorable experiences for pets and their owners. For humans, the sessions offer all the same benefits of yoga, such as relaxation and flexibility. Because of the dedicated attention dogs experience during the sessions, they receive the same sense of relaxation as well as have the opportunity to spend uninterrupted time with their cherished companions. Doga is also a great way to support socialization of a dog, as the group setting helps build their confidence. 

A typical session begins with a relaxation period of dim lighting and soothing music to influence a calming environment. While the owners stretch and begin their breathing exercises to relax themselves, their dogs are given some time to get acclimated. The one-hour sessions also feature massages techniques for dogs, as well as meditation and stretching. Sessions are designed to be flexible and accommodate group needs as well as various activity levels. Recchione does have two important rules for her sessions, but don’t worry, they’re both for humans.

One, don’t worry about your dog embarrassing you. “Yoga should never stress you out, and neither should doga,” she says.  And two, don’t worry if your dog won’t or can’t do a pose — individual dogs’ abilities tend to vary, and like human yoga, many, if not all, positions can be modified.

While this new spin on yoga may sound like a fad, many attendees have seen positive results. “By nature, some of the breeds we see can be high-energy or shaky, but when their owners establish a mellow, controlled mood, the dogs often quickly follow suit,” says Recchione.

For owners looking to warm up before attending their first doga session, SPCA instructor Lisa Recchione has recently released a new book available on Amazon.com, Doga: Yoga for You and Your Dog.  The instructional book features stunning color photos and basic directions that will guide you through a series of postures, movements, breath work and meditation to help you and your pet relax and establish a genuine bond. A portion of all proceeds generated from the book sales will be donated to SPCA Tampa Bay.

Additionally, yoga instructors can also evolve their yoga practices by signing up for the  SPCA’s upcoming yogi training session. The training is for yoga instructors only and runs August 23-24. Registration will be online at www.SPCAtampabay.org or www.ayogavillage.com.  Email info@SPCAtampabay.org or call us at 727-388-0452.