Guest article by Sarah Snyder
For lovers of yoga who are invested in the tradition of keeping Austin weird, Austin Doga invites you and your dog to experience yoga together.
Appropriate for small, medium, and large dogs of all breeds, walking into an Austin Doga session is like walking into a room full of puppy love. Dogs are excited and people chat until founder Nicole Vykoukal begins calming the room with soothing aromatherapy. Once yoga mats are placed out and the dogs are mostly seated, the class is ready to begin.
Austin Doga runs much like a gentle yoga class, but with one major caveat. In between relaxing poses and deep breathing, dogs are gifted with soothing massages. Throughout the class, Vykoukal pauses to teach class attendees about their dogs. One great example is her lesson about dog ears having thousands of nerve endings Because of that, participants are encouraged to massage the tips of their dogs’ ears.
Vykoukal is quick to point out that every owner knows his or her dog best, so any technique that appears to be upsetting a dog should be stopped. All the dogs in my class appeared happy, though. As our time together continued, both attendees and canines became visibly calmer. The connection between each owner and dog was lovingly apparent, as the former gently massaged the latter’s paws.
How Did Austin Doga Get Started?
Vykoukal started Austin Doga in 2010. A psychotherapist by day, Vykoukal loves teaching and practicing yoga, and she truly loves her dogs. Wanting more activities she could do with them, she discovered doga. Doga was created by Suzi Teitelman in New York in 2001.
The more Vykoukal researched doga, the more she knew it belonged in Austin. She recognized how it increased mental and emotional health of participants, as well as the bridge doga offers between people and their dogs, who are led to connect in a new and active way.
“As a dog lover and as someone who works with people, and has studied mental health and emotional wellbeing, I wanted to find a way to increase the mental and emotional wellbeing of both people and their dogs,” stated Vykoukal. “Founding Austin Doga was the perfect way for me to do that.”
Who Can Participate?
The only requirement for dogs to attend an Austin Doga class is that they’re well-behaved with people and other dogs. The dog also needs to be able to settle down, but that often comes with time. With dog massages and love in between, the human yoga is gentle and relaxing, helping keep dogs calm, as well.
Austin Doga holds classes on the east side one Sunday a month, but separate sessions for individuals and groups are available. One of the benefits of Austin Doga is the ability to host classes at the Austin Doga location, pet-friendly hotels around town, and at owners’ homes. This flexibility allows dogs with behavioral challenges to participate.
For Vykoukal, nothing beats keeping Austin weird through yoga and the love of dogs.
@theAustinot wants to know:
Do you want to try an Austin Doga class?
We always have unique content on the Austinot, and we love to give things away. You know, like CDs, event tickets and other cool stuff. We only send out our Best of the Austinot newsletter two times/month. It’s where we give you a recap of our best articles and give stuff away. Interested? Subscribe to Best of the Austinot here!