TOP #14: Health Benefits of Doing Doga With Dogs ft. Anne Appleby

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We’ve all heard of the massive amount of health benefits that people experience when doing yoga. With yoga’s popularity growing rapidly in the last two decades, pet owners decided to take a step forward and include their dogs into the process. The practice of doing yoga with dogs is, naturally, called Doga.

In today’s podcast episode, I’m talking with a San Francisco Bay area based yoga coach and Doga practitioner Anne Appleby, founder and CEO of Yoga Force. Anne has been enjoying the benefits of yoga since the late 80s and started teaching yoga herself in 1997 and haven’t looked back. Today, she’s well-known in the yoga community and her company is a popular place for high quality yoga mats and accessories.

Anne explained to me all the advantages of practicing yoga and how many of the health benefits can be applied to dogs, and the great bonding experience that comes with doing Doga with your pets. She provided us with tips on how to find a good Doga instructor or how you can practice at home, and a lot more.

Listen to the episode in the video above and find the full podcast transcript below. For more, visit this episode’s post on the official Theory of Pets website.

The Health Benefits of Doing Doga With Your Dog
(raw podcast transcript)

Health Benefits of Doga

* To read just the interview transcript, please scroll down below.

Welcome back guys. As promised, today we’re talking about doga, it is yoga but with your dog.  So if you don’t know much about yoga, it is an exercise that involves stretching and working the muscles of your body while also focusing on breathing and balance and meditation.  So it’s just really overall mind, body, spirit workout and it’s really taken off, it’s something that a lot of people have become attracted to because you get that physical experience while also being able to center yourself and focus on your body and healing and feeling good about yourself. So it’s really done wonders for a lot of humans and now it’s starting to spread and humans are seeing that if it’s doing such amazing things for me maybe it can do these amazing things for my dog.

So in comes doga, and it’s this way of doing yoga while incorporating your dog at the same time. Yoga there’s different poses that are incorporated in the exercise, some of them are fairly standard that we’ve heard of like downward facing dog, others are more for more experienced yoga students and what doga does is it brings your dog into it. So whether you’re a beginner and you can do some of the easier poses or you’re more experienced and you can do some of the tougher ones it incorporates using your dog in the exercise, so you’re bonding with your pet, you’re exercising with him, he’s getting the same benefits that you’re getting from it.

It’s a very calm, very soothing environment that you’re bringing your dog into so there’s a lot of advantages to bringing your dog into exercising with you and especially with doga it’s even more beneficial I think, it’s something that I have been inspired to try now after having a conversation with a woman named Anne Appleby.

And Anne has been teaching yoga privately since about 1997, she currently teaches in the San Francisco Bay Area but she also travels around to different corporations like Google, Oracle, she’s done things with Stanford University and she talks about yoga and the benefits of it.

She also travels to consult and teach yoga all over the country and all over the world. So it’s really kind of… I would call her, I would certainly call her a yoga expert, and she also is a pet owner so she knows the importance of exercising with your pet, the bond and as well as just getting your pet out there to exercise so that they don’t live a sedentary lifestyle.

So Anne is involved with a…she started this company, what happened basically was when she started getting into yoga you know she realized that there is a lack of things when it comes to yoga, everything from clothing to yoga mats, so she started out creating this company and they really market like … in fun yoga clothes, now we kind of know yoga clothes as being very trendy anyway because a lot of people are into like yoga pants and stuff like that. So it’s more prevalent now but back when she started in the early 90s it wasn’t so …and in the late 80s even it wasn’t.

Yoga wasn’t a well-known thing, there certainly wasn’t any great clothing that made you feel good about yourself while you were working out, so she started this company. She also suffered a few pretty serious car accidents so with that and the healing process…it makes it kind of difficult to exercise when you have had …when your body’s had trauma like that, yoga is a great way to exercise if you’re somebody that your body isn’t capable of doing some of the more extreme exercises like hiking or running and things like that. So she stuck with yoga but she realized that there weren’t mats that were really…basically every mat was the same, it was very plain.  So now she’s created this yoga mat, her company is called Yoga Force, and this is her mat, it’s a patented Yoga Force A-line mat and it has an alignment system kind of built into it and so it can be used for physical therapy, yoga…basically any kind of floor exercise.

So her company is Yoga Force and I reached out to her, again obviously she’s instructor of kind of all things yoga, but I really wanted to talk to her about doga and the benefits that it has for you and for your pet, it’s inspired me to try it and I hope it inspires some of you to try it.  If you guys want to jump on our website, it’s TheoryofPets.com; you can leave any comments, questions, suggestions, anything like that for me on there, you can type those or you can record them,  if you record them I may use them in future podcasts.

And of course if you jump on iTunes you can find all of our past podcasts episodes as well as leave us a review which really helps me reach out to people and just show them that I do have listeners and that they’re enjoying what they hear . So if you guys could take a minute or two to do that, that would be great. I’m going to go ahead and let you listen to this interview and then I’ll recap at the end.

Interview with Anne Appleby

Samantha:  So if you don’t mind could you just give me a brief explanation of what exactly doga is and how people with…how their dogs would participate with them?

Anne:  Doga is yoga with your dog, and I started it because I accidentally got a dog, and I’m a yoga teacher so I do yoga every morning and the little puppy was doing yoga with me, like literally.  I did downward…stuff and I did upward…and the puppy mirrored everything I did.

Samantha:  Oh my gosh!

Anne:  And I thought it was so cute.  And then I’m like “Madison, do down dog,” and she would do down dog, and then I’m like “Madison down,” and then she’d got such trite little Pomeranian, so it kind of got out of control like she would do downward baby dog all the time…I’m not going to make her do that cause it’s just like ridiculous the amount of times she’d do downward baby dog.

But it’s a really good way to bond with your pet because pets also get stressed out I think too…

Samantha:  Oh definitely.

Anne: …and so you can give them massages, you can hold them, you can look in their eyes and that’s something that you really can’t do when you’re taking them for a walk.  And just like babies I think everybody does yoga and I also every dog does yoga so it’s kind of a natural thing.  When you were like three years old I bet you put your foot in your mouth and that you did somersaults, I bet you did yoga, and then when you were four your mom said “You can’t put your foot in your mouth.”

Samantha:  Right.

Anne:  You know what I mean, it’s like…

Samantha:  Yeah that’s an interesting way to look at it.

Anne:  So it de-stresses you and it de-stresses your dog and it’s kind of fun and it’s a free-for-all and you don’t have to do every curve perfectly, and your dog can go run around.  And it’s interesting cause I’ve done a lot of doga classes at Burlingame.  Where are you Samantha?

Samantha:  I’m actually in Maine.

Anne:  Oh okay, I’m in Burlingame, California which is very close to the San Francisco International Airport.  So I taught yoga several times at a place called the Burlingame Rec Center…and I’ve also taught yoga and doga privately with people in Rose…and also I was just in Los Angeles and I taught a little bit of doga when I was there.

Samantha:  Wonderful.

Anne:  So it’s just a really kind of a chill activity to do by yourself and then you can do with your dog and it’s not judgmental cause you don’t have to do it perfectly, but it is fun.

Samantha:  Definitely.  So for beginners, and I know you said it’s definitely sort of a natural thing, but obviously as we age we stop doing, like you said, some of the more natural I guess yoga stretching and that kind of stuff, so for people that are beginners and they feel like they’re maybe not flexible enough to do yoga, that’s one of the things that I think I hear the most when I talk to people about doing doga myself that people say “Oh wow I’m not flexible enough to do that.” So what would your advice be for those beginners who maybe think that they’re not going to be capable of doing this exercise?

Anne:  Well I just got out of teaching a class at Oracle, and Oracle has employees that are very flexible and very active, and then they have other employees that are new to it and then people say they’re not flexible, and I hate that because everybody is flexible.  So it’s just you practice yoga and it’s something you couldn’t do five years ago you can do now, so you have to modify position, if the teacher says “Do this,” and you don’t feel comfortable doing that, you don’t do it, you modify the position.  If they say “Bend over and straighten your leg,”  well if it hurts to straighten your leg, you will bend your leg.

So I am a huge believer in modification, also people get injured all the time and if somebody went skiing and they come back to a yoga class and they have hurt their knee then they would like kind of go to try out those or are they willing to do the poses that everybody else is doing in class because they just hurt their knee and their knee has to heal, you always have to think in the back of your mind “Hey I’m my own personal trainer.”

Samantha:  Oh that’s great advice.  Okay so can you tell me a little bit about the benefits of doga for both people and pets, I know you briefly touched on the bonding, which is definitely one of the things that I find the most beneficial, but I know there are health benefits for both humans and dogs as well.

Anne:  Yes, because dogs get stressed, so it is a …because…and I wouldn’t be able to say this if I hadn’t done a lot of teaching of dogs, and humans, but so have first class at the Burlingame Rec Center and you bring…I wish we had footage because I have been on Dutch TV and I guess you know that footage only lasts so long…and it was also on Telemundo Television and that footage lasts so long.  So basically don’t worry, I’m sure somebody else will come and fill the blank, but it’s really funny because the beginning of the class, the people and the dogs are all running around and then at the end of class everybody is chilling.

All the dogs are relaxed and all the people are relaxed, so it works for both of the species because the humans do a series of breathing exercises and they bring their dogs close to them, and then the dogs learn how to breathe with their masters and everybody starts relaxing, every single class.  It’s never happened that the dogs stay hyper the whole class, everybody starts chilling and at the end of class everybody is working on their breath or are relaxed and they’re in a dense state to leave the class.

Samantha:  Have you ever had a…

Anne:  A hundred percent of it, a hundred percent of the times, I’m not kidding.  It’s really weird, I’ve had the most hyper…my dog is a very hyper dog.  Have you seen Madison, I’m sure you caught…did you get see my blog on Yoga Forum?

Samantha:  Yes I did and I checked out some of the videos.

Anne:  You know Madison is extremely hyperactive so if it worked on her it’ll work on any dog, but I mean she always…all the dogs, she’s running around and then I pick her up and we start…she looks in my eyes and then she starts to relax…and then she starts like focusing on my breath, and then she relaxes, and then I give her a massage and that makes her relax even more.  So a hundred percent of the time all humans and the dogs will relax by the end of the class.

Samantha:  Have you ever had a dog who didn’t… who just was not going to be into it at all?

Anne:  I had a dog once that was adopted and I think it was abused and it came into the class late and it was kind of disruptive, but at the end of the class totally was chill.

Samantha:  Interesting.  Are there any breeds or sizes that seem to excel, I would obviously think it would be easier with a smaller breed?

Anne:  It’s easier with a smaller dog, absolutely; but you can get a big dog and…like I’ve taught a Collie before and they can put their shoulder…you can stand up and they can put their paws on your shoulders and that’s a good back stretch for them.  And there’s just a very limited amount of things you can do with big dogs but you could also like look at a big dog size and you can massage a big dog right?

Samantha:  Right.

Anne:  So it’s very beneficial to big dogs as well as it is to little dogs because it’s really good for all the dog’s joints even if you’re a big dog or a little dog, the joints and their hips.

Samantha:  So as I mentioned, I know the practice is starting to grow right now and it definitely seems to be something that’s offered more and more urban areas where there’s more people, but do you believe that it’s going to continue to keep growing?

Anne:  Yes, for some reason I believe in the recession, like in 2008 did you notice like that everybody started to get a dog.

Samantha:  It is kind of funny how the recession hit but then people…this like boom in dog ownership happened at the same time.

Anne:  Yeah, because people were scared and they wanted comfort.  So yes, and also we’re living in very weird times…

Samantha:  Absolutely.

Anne: …and the election is making people…I’m not going to say what I …but it’s like the election is making people really nervous, and then I think that terrorism is making people really nervous, especially like the lone-wolf stuff, and if you’re Republican or if you’re a Democrat it doesn’t matter, no one can counteract that, I mean we don’t know how to stop that.

So I think people are really nervous about that and I think yoga is really on the rise because of it.  Yoga has been steadily on the rise after 2000 whenever we had the terrorist act in New York City, so it’s been steadily on the rise and now we’re having these lone-wolf terrorist acts all over the world, it is getting much more popular.

Samantha:  It’s interesting that you point that out, obviously the terrorist attacks in 2001 over the last 15 years, like you said, the entire world seems to be getting more nervous, more anxiety, more stressed, I think too just as a society in general, especially here in the United States, everything has to be super fast paced and people are just go go go go going, and it’s interesting that you say that yoga is increasing as the stress level rises also.

Anne:  Right, exactly.  Cause the only thing is like for an hour you can’t think about these things.

Samantha:  Right, you’re clearing your mind.  That’s interesting.

Anne:  You’re clearing your mind and you’re thinking about your breath.

Samantha:  So how about …because we do have a few readers who have asked some different questions about it, so what about advice for dog owners who might be looking for an instructor or a studio in their area, do you have any advice on how they should choose if there’s multiple options in their area?

Anne:  Yes.  I just talked about that today at Oracle, because I teach at like Google, at Stanford University and various places in Silicon Valley, and oftentimes in those situation people get yoga teachers who don’t know what they’re talking about, like they took a two-week class online and they just are really new to it and then they go and teach a class and they don’t pay attention to their individual students.

I always say that go to somebody who has some experience.  You really need experience when you’re doing your…like years of experience, yoga, you practice yoga, it takes years and years of experience to get it.  So I’d say my Number One thing is to get a experienced yoga teacher.

Samantha:  Absolutely.

Anne:  Yeah, cause you can tell your yoga teacher took an online class for two weeks, and I don’t like that, that’s really bad for yoga.

Samantha:  Is there any kind of certification or credentials that people need or like you said they can take an online class and call themselves a yoga teacher and get a job anywhere?

Anne:  Yeah, and that’s not good.  You know I think you should go to reputable teachers, and there are reputable teachers out there, you can Google them.  I started yoga at Paramount Pictures, I took from Marion Stork, she was a fabulous yoga teacher, she was not accredited because she accredits other yoga teachers.  I took from Bryan Kest, who’s a fabulous yoga teacher, he has power yoga in Los Angeles, he teaches all over the world.

You know I don’t think he’s accredited but he gives accreditation to other yoga teachers, he knows what he’s doing.  There’s Steve Ross also in Los Angeles.  I mean those are my teachers, I mean I’ve been studying for years, but I’m like…it’s not really fair to say I teach yoga if I take a class online, that’s just one of those things you can’t really do online I think, you know what I mean?

Samantha:  Right, right, absolutely, it’s something you need the hands-on experience for.

Anne:  Yeah you need the hands-on experience, and also you need to teach a lot, I mean I’ve taught like thousands of classes and that makes me good cause I taught every single kind of person.  And the other thing is when I teach these big classes I can tell if the room is intermediate or advanced or beginner, and then you can pick that up immediately, and then I have to change my class.

Samantha:  Sure.

Anne:  You know you don’t go in with a preconceived notion on how to teach a class and half of your students are brand new.  So you have to design it for the individual, and then…so like I kind of over the years we did teach a doga class, all different kind of dogs, like there were really big dogs in the class, there were really …in the class, and then I figured well you know it’s hard to teach that because you don’t want the little dogs to be afraid of the really big dogs so it’s better to do a little dog class and then separately give a big dog class.

Samantha:  Oh that’s…yeah that’s absolutely…yes I can see how that would happen.  And what about for…oh go ahead.

Anne:   I was going to say that the range of motion is a little a rocky, you could use a little…in a weight right, while you were… and you can’t use the big dog as a weight because that might hurt your back…

Samantha:  Sure.  So what about for people who…because I’ve had a few people mention that maybe they’re not super comfortable in the beginning going to a studio and finding an instructor, but they’re thinking about maybe starting at home just to get comfortable with it before they went, one I guess the first part of that question is would you recommend starting at home for people that aren’t comfortable; and then two, if so I guess what would you recommend?  Is there any…are there any maybe DVDs or online sources or anything that you would recommend them to start with?

Anne:  Yes, yes.  I actually think they should get my Yoga Force A-Line Mat, which is Yogaforce.com and it’s really good for you to queue your own body alignment because when you do them, you’re facing dog and one of your hands is way up, the other one of your hands is way down, you’re not going to notice cause you’re not looking at your hands.

So the Yoga Force A-Line Mat gives you guidance when no one’s around and it helps you align your practice and the way that people get injured in yoga is because they’re not aligned.  And that kind of goes for all floor activity like TRX or floor method or… like you need to be in alignment.  And I love Christen McGhee, she’s out of New York and she’s got some really good DVDs, or like you can buy those on Amazon I think, like she’s very good instructional for beginners I think.  I like her for beginners.

Samantha:  Excellent.  Do you want to talk a little more about your mat and how you designed that?

Anne:  Sure.  I got into a car accident and I went to Bryan’s class and Bryan goes, “Appleby!”  in front of 300 people, cause he used to pack them in, like 300 people were in his class.  He’s like “Appleby, Appleby, look at your hands!”  And I’m like “Oh yeah wow, my hands are completely out of whack and it’s because my hip bones got messed up when I got in a car accident.”

So he goes, “Do you want to fix yourself or you want to stay…”

I’m like “No I want to fix myself.”

Samantha:  Of course.

Anne:  And he goes, “Why don’t you put a line down on your mat so you can tell that your palms are in parallel?”  And I’m like “Oh that’s a good idea.”  So I got one of those regular old mats, at that time when I started doing yoga with Bryan, like I started in the early … 1987 is when I started taking at Paramount Pictures.

So I got into the car accident, I can’t remember like very late ’90s but I’d already been doing yoga for so long, but they were all like blue, all the yoga mats were blue at that time, so I’m like “Oh I need to like bend in some kind of shape for a yoga mat,” and your body is aligned for you are bigger at your shoulders and smaller at your feet, and I thought, well if I invented this yoga mat where ergonomically designed where it’s tapered and it’s a little bit wider at your shoulders and it gives you a lot more real estate in the room where people wouldn’t think you were a pig but it kind of keep the real estate space in the room.

So I kind of invented the yoga mat that was tapered and then it had these lines but every single one of the lines is useful, like you can use it for…it can use it for… you can use it for frog… so it’s got the lines…the one line with three intercepting lines, it’s simple body alignment.  So you use all those lines when you’re doing yoga, you also use them when you’re doing bar method at home, that’s a big one over here in California, bars is really exploding.  Have you guys heard of that one?

Samantha: It’s really kind of just getting around out here but I have heard of it numerous times.

Anne: There’s one called pure barre and then there’s another called bar method, those are chains.  Pure barre and bar method, and they teach kind of ballet moves.  They keep on reiterating that you need your body in alignment and people need alignment cause there’s a thing called… and that’s when you don’t really know where you body is in space when you’re going really fast, so that’s actually why you need lines on your mat so you can tell what you’re doing.

Samantha:  I’d like to say a huge thank you to Anne Appleby for chatting with me about doga and all its benefits.  If you guys have any questions about the practice of doga or anything that I might be able to answer for you feel free to jump on our website which is TheoryofPets.com, and there is a section there where you can either type your questions and I will certainly answer those; or you can also record questions and I might even use them on a future podcast.