Written by Josephine Lategan
Workouts don’t have to go out the door while you’re staying home more. With a few careful tweaks, your quarantine exercise routine can mean much more quality time with your furry friend(s) that gets their muscles and hearts moving, too.
Your pet pup may already have shown interest while you’re doing reps or postures.
Charlie, a six-year old husky mix from New York City, changed his human’s life with his interest in her exercises. “Charlie would come onto my mat whenever I practised,” Manhattan yoga teacher and former emergency veterinary technician, Kari Harendorf tells Yoga Journal. “Instead of moving him, I just adapted. I’d step wider into a lunge, or step over him into a Standing Forward Bend.” This pet-inclusive practice led to her opening a dog-friendly yoga studio, and, to solve pet lovers’ #lockdownprobs, offering remote classes via Zoom.
While isolation is the thing, here’s a home-studio, no-gym required guide to getting your muscles and your mutt moving without pain. Well, for your pooch, in any case.
CAVEATS and DISCLAIMERS:
1. Furry front squats
Just like you’d do them with a dumbbell, but this time your dumbbell is a small to medium-small doggie. Pick your pooch up supporting her chest and lower legs and commence those darned squat repetitions. Keep her against your upper chest, elbows and head and feet facing forward. Keep your feet a hip’s width apart. Keep your back straight throughout and chest high and go slowly – it’s a lot harder with a hound! Squat by bending your hips back, letting your knees come slightly forward, until the tops of your thighs are parallel to the floor. Hold. Push through your heels and slowly straighten your knees and hips to return to a standing position.
PLEASE DO NOT hold your dog around the belly as it can cause discomfort and even damage to her abdominal organs
2. Poochy Warrior Pose
Your beginner dog yogi might like this weighted form of Virabhadrasana posture. Hold your small to not-so-small hound with appropriate support (see 1 above) firmly against your chest. Open your legs out to about 1m apart like a pair of scissors, turn your front 90 degrees outward and turn your back foot to 45 degrees inward. Slowly bend your front knee until the top of your bent-leg thigh is at a 90- degree angle to your shin, and parallel to the floor/ground. You are now in a straddling squat lunge, you dog-bearing warrior! Hold it for less time than you would without weights.
UPGRADE IT: If you’re sure you have a good grip on your very comfortable canine buddy, convert this posture to a lunge for maximal workout, by holding it for less time, and then slowly rising up and swapping legs. You can also do lunges with your dog sitting on the floor in front of you and touching her paws each time. It’s easier for you, but may take time for your dog to learn, the paw thing.
3. Doggy “dumbbell” hammer curl
This one requires a rope that your dog likes to tug on. Stand with your legs a hip’s width apart. Keep your spine neutral. Place your elbows just in front of your hips. Grip the rope that your dog has the other end of, or start out holding it at one end and invite her to take the other end (probably easier!). Raise your forearms upwards, keeping your elbows locked in the same position to engage the biceps. Lower your forearms and repeat. The length of the rope and the weight of your dog in relation to yours will affect the intensity and effectiveness of this workout.
IMPORTANT: It’s crucial that this tug-of-war not strain your dog’s jaw, neck or other muscles, or lift her off the ground. And remember, because it’s a game, she may not let ON that she’s feeling the strain!
4. Pooch-partnered side shuffles
This is something of a choreographed doggie dance that really gets your legs flexing. Use a leash if your dog doesn’t automatically obey your command to track you. In time and with repetition, she’ll probably progress on to doing it unrestrained. Make sure your chest is up and your feet are facing forward. Move your leg one step outwards to the side of your body and move the other leg one step toward it. Shuffle from one side of the space to the other with your doggle following and then return to your starting point. Fun, hey?
5. Canine Camel bend
Good for beginner “doga” (dog yoga) students and dogs whose standing height fits under your folded backwards posture on knees. This is ideal towards the end of your workout, yoga or combination practise, when your muscles are warm enough to welcome the deep, intense stretches and hold them for long enough to build strength. Kneel facing away from your standing dog with your lower legs on the floor directly underneath her belly and your torso upright. Your knees should be a foot’s width apart. Place your hands on your hips to encourage them forward. Slowly arc your spine backwards over your dog. You may not get too far. With repetition the stretch will naturally deepen. Do not push it, though – this is a passive exercise! Ultimately you want to reach around and under your patient pooch’s belly so that your left palm rests on your left heel and your right palm on your right heel and you’ve locked her in (facing outwards). Remember to relax your neck. Urdhva Dhanurasana (upward bending) with a dog helps build stronger powerful arms, legs, abdomen, and spine and will develop your mutt’s patience, too.
REMEMBER: It’s important that you NOT rest any weight on her spine at any point.
ADAPT IT: You can also try this approach with the Wheel pose if you are hundred per cent certain that you won’t collapse or slip in the posture.
TAKE CARE: A non-slip yoga mat is a must for this adapted Dog Wheel pose.
6. Push-ups with paws
With your dog sitting or lying near you, lower your body to the floor until you are on your hands and knees. Straighten your spine and extend your legs full-length out behind you so that they form a straight line together, moving the weight onto your toes. It’s similar to planking, but you’re on your hands, not your forearms. Push your body up and down with your arms and avoid resting on the floor for full impact. For an easier push-up, rest on your bent knees instead of your toes. Has your dog drifted away? Call her back and get her to pull her own weight, literally, by obeying your commands to sit, lie down and get up a few times. It’s okay to cuddle afterwards while you regain your breath.
7. Chilin’ child’s pose
Speaking of cuddling and regaining breath, the Balasana posture is great for both and can wrap up your dog-partnered workout with medium-sized mutts and bigger ones you can’t lift. Sit on your folded knees facing your sitting or lying dog’s back. Lean forward from the hips and curl your spine over till your forehead rests on your dog’s spine (instead of the mat).
ALERT: The bulk of your weight is being distributed through your hips, but some weight will transfer onto our dog so it’s important that this not be done with little dogs.
DYK that most of our pet claims result from things that happened at home? Even if you’re the doggie workout safety queen, your pup might hurt herself in your home on her own (though definitely not doing that downward dog pose!). Make sure your furry companion is protected with our new Ultimate Pet plan. You can upgrade in your Manage Portal in a matter of seconds.
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