Monday, January 26, 2009

Yoga's Gone to the Dogs. Article in The Bellevue Reporter





Barking Buddha Doga instructor Brenda Bryan and her sidekick, Gus, demonstrate the ‘Flying Dog’ pose.
Lindsay Larin/Bellevue Reporter

Yoga's gone to the dogs
By LINDSAY LARINBellevue Reporter Staff Writer Jan 23 2009, 1:00 AM
Gus and Honey sit perched on a yoga mat, ready to begin a DOGA class. The four-legged companions of yoga instructor and massage therapist Brenda Bryan have quickly become pros at mastering poses like the Wheel Barrel and the Super Dog pose.
Bryan and her two furry friends teach Barking Buddha Doga, a traditional form of free flowing yoga for dogs and their owners.
Classes are taught at the Seattle-King County Humane Society in Bellevue, at the Twilight Artist Collective Gallery in West Seattle and at Downtown Dog Lounge in Capital Hill.
The concept of yoga for dogs came to Bryan two years ago while she was massaging "models" prior to a runway show. The models strutting their stuff just happened to be dogs as part of a Seattle Humane Society fashion show event that took place on Fourth Avenue in front of Hotel Monaco in Seattle.
"The massage helped to calm the dogs prior to the show and helped them relax in the midst of all the chaos," Bryan explained. "I love supporting Seattle Humane Society's causes. They are a wonderful organization."
While chatting with a representative from the Seattle Humane Society following the fashion show, the idea of combining massage and yoga practices with dogs came about.
"The representative asked if I would be willing to teach some classes at the Humane Society in Bellevue and I said yes right away," she said. "I mean, what a wonderful idea. For years, I had to shoo my dogs off my yoga mats when I practiced at home, now they would be joining in."
She began slowly, by rolling out the yoga mat and practicing different moves with her pups while using massage techniques to sooth and calm them.
"It only took a short time for Gus and Honey to get a handle on it," she laughed. "Now they hog the yoga mat."
Bryan adopted Gus, a small-mix breed, from a shelter in Blaine. Gus is now six years old and eager to help demonstrate his best Doga moves. Eleven-year-old Honey is 1/2 Boxer, 1/2 Shar Pei, which Bryan describes as a little wrinkly, a lot sweet. Both dogs act right at home on the yoga mat.
Doga welcomes dogs of all sizes, ages and breeds. Each class typically runs 45 minutes to an hour and covers a brief play time, various poses, massage techniques and meditation.
"In my current series at the Humane Society I have a four-month-old puppy, a 14-year-old dog with arthritis, and everything in between," Bryan explained, who said each class consists of roughly four to six students and their dogs.
She begins each class with a run-around play time to help the dogs get aquatinted with one another and the space.
Little research has been done to determine the benefits of yoga and dogs, but Bryan remains confident in the practice.
For weeks, Bryan's dog Honey was chewing on the skin above her hips. Bryan assumed it was some type of allergic reaction or a case of sensitive skin that is often found in the Shar Pei breed.
Finally it dawned on Bryan to try massaging Honey's lower back and hips to ease any discomfort or pain due to her old age. She massaged Honey's lower back and led her through a few gentle poses. Honey stopped chewing at her skin and has since appeared to be feeling better, said Bryan.
"Doga benefits dogs just like it benefits people. They benefit from the stretching and massage and lets the owner connect with their dog in a very focused manner," she explained. "My theory on dogs is that they open us up to a deeper level of emotions that we can use as a catalyst for a true connection to ourselves and others."
Bryan encourages dog owners to practice Doga poses and meditation practices at home on a regular basis. A Doga guide called Barking Buddha: Simple Soul Stretches for Yogi and Dogi, written by Brenda Bryan will hit bookstores in May and is currently available for pre-sale on Amazon.com.
"You can do a little bit of Doga every day and the dogs will love the attention," Bryan explained. "We certainly spend a lot of time with our dogs, but we are usually busy doing other things. It becomes more meaningful if you take the time out to focus on them and there needs."
For more information on Barking Buddha Doga check out Brenda's blog at www.brendabryan.net.
Upcoming Class:
Barking Buddha Doga - relaxing the world one dog at a time
Jan.7-21, 7 p.m., three-week series. Humane Society, Bellevue.
Lindsay Larin can be reached at llarin@bellevuereporter.com or at 425.453.4602.
Bellevue Reporter Staff Writer Lindsay Larin can be reached at llarin@bellevuereporter.com or 425-453-4602.

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