My home practice: Having a dog is a lot like yoga

Last fall, we adopted a dog.  I’ve always wanted to have a dog and after fostering one a few years ago, we made the decision to walk into the North Shore Animal League on Long Island and we walked out with Lui.  In the harsh winter months since we got him, I have realized that having a dog is a lot like practicing yoga.  And, no, I don’t mean doga.  

Here’s how:

Dogs are our mirrors.  We’ve all heard the joke about people beginning to look like their dogs.  When we give negative energy (anxious, chaotic, inconsistent or angry) to our dogs, it is reflected back in the form of behavior problems.  If instead the energy we emit is calm, consistent, and assertive, we will draw different behavior from the dog.

Dogs demand discipline.  Unless you want your sofa chewed and carpet peed on, walking your dog is your daily routine.  It was during my morning walks with Lui that I first realized this connection with my yoga practice.  It would be freezing cold and very early; I could be tired and/or sick, but I still have to get out of bed, bundle up, and walk my dog.

Dogs bring us into the present moment.  They live completely in the moment.  No matter how many times I take my dog down the same street, it is like new every time.  He is just as excited as the first time to sniff and watch the animals and people go by.  There is no obsessing over the past, no matter how horrible. Just watch any episode of The Dog Whisperer and you’ll see this demonstrated in their amazing capacity for rehabilitation.

Walking a dog is a moving meditation.  When I’m out with Lui, I don’t listen to music, talk on the phone, or think about the day.  I practice clearing my mind, seeing and hearing what’s around me, and breathing deeply.  It is the best way to wake up and start a day.

Dogs tune us into the rhythm of nature.  They act on instinct. They sense and respond to the energy that’s being provided to them.  They eat when they’re hungry and stop eating when they’re not.  They balance work and play!  They love to be outside.  They crave exercise.

Dogs live simply.  The simpler, the better.  They don’t need much besides the basics to be content.  Feed me, walk me, pet me, play with me.  Period.

Self reflection, discipline, present moment awareness, meditation, attunement to nature, and simplified living are all among the beautiful benefits of a regular yoga practice.  Many people are drawn to the practice mainly because they are searching for a way to cultivate these things in their lives.  So on days where there is no asana, no time spent on my mat,  no sun salutations or savasana, I have found an extension of my yoga practice in my dog.

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