Silence reigns, except for the occasional “ummmm” from the deeply focused yoga buffs, until someone or rather something, lets loose a bark.
It seems some Americans cannot do anything without their pets anymore, even when they are quietly searching for internal peace.
Some people have been bitten by a new yoga bug – the kind that allows you to meditate with dogs.
The practice, launched in New York, has spread from Miami and Hollywood.
Some call it “Doga” others “Ruff Yoga.”
There is “a big market in New York City, as people tend to practice more activities with their dogs,” said Donna Cyrus, director of Crunch, a fitness chain that introduced other alternative yoga classes such as “yoga disco”.
The yoga sessions are surprisingly orderly, with no untimely yelps from the four-legged animals, who are placed on a mat next to their masters, Ms Cyrus said.
“They imitate their owner kindly,” she said.
“At the end of the class, dogs are rewarded with a special treat for a stretch well done.”
Heather Stevens, a Ruff Yoga teacher in West Hollywood in California, vaunted its positive effects.
“Each 30 minute class encompasses partnering exercises and individually focused moves for both coach and canine,” Ms Stevens said.
“By incorporating their pets, students can go deeper into their poses.”
Thanks to Ruff Yoga, her aging female dog regained mobility on her hips, Ms Stevens said.
For the last few months, a number of new publications on dog yoga have appeared.
The basic manual, Doga: yoga for dogs, lists all the positions dexterous dogs can learn, from the “mountain” to the “boat” to the “cobra”.
“Dogs have always been natural yogis,” the doga book says.
Bruce Van Horn, a finance graduate who practices yoga, wrote a separate book on the virtues of doga, “home alone: yoga and other tools to help pets overcome separation anxiety”.
“Yoga can help dogs to calm their stress down,” Mr Van Horn, who calls himself a “pet guru,” said.
“They suffer from a too tense urban life.
“I started practicing yoga with my Dalmatian Goodboy, a race known to be hyperactive, and it helped him through but at some point my cat was so jealous that I had to take her to follow our daily session.”
Mr Van Horn is trying to confirm his theory with a scientific study on dogs at the Bergen County animal shelter in New Jersey.
He is tracking the dogs’ heart beats to study yoga’s effects on pets.
Mr Van Horn said dogs, unlike their masters, do not have a physiological need for yoga.
“They are bred to be companions and they suffer to be home alone,” he said.
While some dog owners believe doga relieves anxiety, some veterinarians are sceptical.
Jack Stephens, chief executive officer of Veterinary Pet Insurance, said “the therapeutical effects of yoga were never proven on dogs”.
“There is a risk that people become more and more dependant on their pets, and that they isolate themselves from our society.”
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