"I have very active dogs, so I am always trying to figure out how to change up their exercise in fun ways so they don't get bored. Sometimes hiking doesn't cut it!" Lance Bass, former NSync boy bander and current host of America's only gay dating show, is emailing me about why he has decided to promote doga (dog yoga) for Natural Balance puppy chow. Sure, his three dogs (Lily, Chip, and Dale) already do downward dog, but as Bass says, "They like to change it up!"
They aren't alone. Over the past few years, doga has spread throughout Los Angeles like the lip injection trend currently rampaging through California's suburbs. Four studios offer the practice, and with celebrity endorsements, doga's likely to grow.
According to Lance's doga instructor, Stephanie Kang, the trend began in New York around 2001 but picked up popularity through YouTube. She saw one such tutorial in 2014 and achieved her doga certification afterwards.
Kang focuses on connecting dogs and their owners. In her Los Angeles classes, humans do gentle-style yoga while the dogs stretch and meander. "We just let them be," Kang explains in a phone call. "While we're in yoga pose, we give dogs acupuncture massages and stretches that are specific with dogs." She instructs owners to stretch puppies without pulling on joints, and teaches how to "stimulate and balance" dog's chakra points, or the body's energy zones.
"It was so relaxing for myself and especially Chip," Lance recalls. "He really embraced the calm energy of the yoga."
Kang has found that dogs love classes because their owners pay attention to them throughout the session. "Doga's a partner-style yoga with the dogs. It's like bonding," Kang explains. Dogs devote their lives to humans, and humans cater to their pups at doga.
In Los Angeles, a town where people rub crystals on their dogs and feed them organic food, it makes sense people would take their pets to doga classes. Outside of the coast, though, people may find the trend absurd. To his critics, Bass, who started yoga earlier this year to increase his flexibility ("I can barely touch my toes," he admits), would say, "Give it a try! I thought I would really like it, but I absolutely loved it."
More thoughtful about her practice, Kang argues that dogs invented yoga. "Obviously yogis from 5,000 years ago—they copied the dogs!" she yells. "Dogs do downward dog when ready to do walks, and they're not even taught." Puppies just need doga class so they can stretch with their owners."It's about giving them undivided attention," Kang says. "It's giving them the undivided love that they give us."