Doing Yoga With The Dog

Or, making peace with life as it is


¬†Your dinner is on the stove, the children are fighting over who gets the yellow glass, the dog is scratching at the back door, the phone is ringing, you have 27 emails to answer, a business trip to plan, a dentist appointment to cancel, another to schedule, and it would be nice to sit down *sometime* today, but there are still clothes to be washed, phone calls to return (maybe only the one to your mother) and your husband is not the kind of guy who leaves you to do it all…he really does help, and there he is, looking pitiful with neglect…..


Modern women have such busy lives, I honestly don’t know how most of us do it. My own life lately has turned one of those high pressure corners we all run into–boys were home thought the holidays, elderly grandmother has been in and out of the hospital, book deadlines are piling up and I’ve been on the road a bit. Being a somewhat…er…high strung artistic type (you, too??) my tendency is to run on nerves until I fall over. As this is not a particularly healthy way to live, I’ve been striving to find ways to stay sane and balanced, even when life is crazy.

My main method of coping with stress is to exercise. I walk, go to the gym and lift weights, run, hike whenever possible. Being outside, breathing fresh air, moving my body enough to make myself sweat–that does a lot for my mental health.

But for purely destressing, nothing beats yoga. There is a short practice I like to do a few times a week in the evenings. Very simple, only about 25 minutes or so. It stretches out all the kinks in my neck and shoulders, eases the lower back stiffness that comes from sitting so much, and if I’ve been lifting weights, it stretches out all the tight spots. Yoga is one of those things that gets a bad rap–it sometimes seems as if all the practitioners are lean graceful creatures who can twist into pretzels. Not true–in fact, it can be a very gentle starting point for people who haven’t moved much can begin to center awareness on their bodies. (Most studios have now begun to offer classes for beginners and for those who might not be in peak condition, if you’re feeling shy. Check it out.)

Trust me, it feels so good.

But here’s how life is for me, and maybe you, too: the only spot I have to do yoga is in my bedroom. My dog must come with me. So there I am, on the floor, with legs twisting one way, torso the other, and here comes Jack, sniffing at my hand. Or I’m lying on the floor, foot stretched overhead, and he falls against my side, thinking we’re going to take a little nap. The funniest one is when I’ve finished, made it to relaxation pose, and he comes over, snuffles over my face, and licks my forehead.

Technically, I suppose it spoils the mood. But….well, maybe it’s because of the yoga, what I keep thinking whenever this happens is that doing yoga with a dog is a lot like getting through busy modern days. My practice is compromised a little bit by his presence, but his love is so precious, his company so enriching, that it’s okay to share the time with him in some small way.

And maybe I’m doing some kind of weird justification for multitasking even while doing yoga, but that’s life, too. At least, it’s part of mine these days, and I’d rather laugh with it than get tangled up in doing it all just perfect.

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