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My Favorite Yoga Teacher
by Brian J. Critchley



For my most recent birthday I received a book on “doga” or the practice of people doing yoga with their dogs. It was hilarious to see the pictures of the many different shapes and sizes of dogs doing yoga-like poses such as sphinx or triangle or even savasana. It prompted me to do a little research online where I found several studios (none in NJ yet!) that offer doga for pups and their two-legged companions. While the practice of doga may seem to some to be nothing more than a gimmicky, far-fetched (pardon the pun) attempt by some studio owners to attract new students, watching doga YouTube videos certainly made me think about my own relationship with my dog and our shared experience of yoga.

Experiencing yoga with my dog usually is limited to shooing him off my mat during Sun Salutations or avoiding the always lurking “face licking hazard” in poses like Handstand or, ironically enough, Downward Facing Dog. What if I actually took the time to incorporate him into my practice and opened myself up to learning from him as other doga practitioners have done? I’d probably be forced to admit that without a doubt my 4-year old smooth coat dachshund is the real yoga teacher in the family. Not only is he ridiculously physically flexible and agile (with an impeccable grasp of both Downward and Upward-Facing Dog) but he seems to live life with the ease of a well-seasoned yogi. In watching his approach to life over the past 2+ years since we rescued him from a shelter, it has become clear that on most days he grasps yoga philosophy with more regularity and less effort than most other yogis I know. Here are just a few yoga lessons I’ve learned from my dog by watching his practice:

* Live authentically and don’t be afraid to show your emotions. Wag when you’re happy, tuck your tail when you’re scared, bark when you’re angry, and beg when you’re hungry.
* Feel those emotions and then let them go. Live only in this present moment. There’s no sense barking over a jogger who passed by ten minutes ago that you can’t even see anymore.
* Find plenty of time during your day to close your eyes, relax, and breathe. (Preferably curled up in a circle on top of the couch cushions)
* Practice asana often and everywhere. Most dogs (including my precious pup) do Downward and Upward Dog whenever they get up from being in a reclined position. They don’t mind who is watching, don’t have to drive to the studio, and don’t need special yoga gear to get their yoga groove on. It is such a natural practice integrated into their everyday existence as I imagine the founders of yoga originally intended.
* Demonstrate love every chance you get. This can be done with words or with exuberant face licking. (See Handstand hazard above).
* Live life fearlessly, with wild abandon. Don’t just roll in any pile of leaves; find the biggest and stinkiest pile of leaves to roll in.
* Every now and then let someone rub your belly. Showing your vulnerable side, admitting you don’t have all the answers, and allowing others to help you are attributes that are key to finding your way on your yoga journey.

I’m not really sure that I’ll practice doga with my dog anytime soon. Dachshunds are notoriously stubborn so I’d probably have better luck getting my neighbor’s garden gnome statues into triangle pose than trying to coax Dash into it. However, I think that the next time Dash wanders onto my mat at the start of my practice I just may let him stay there rather than nudging him out of the way so that I can get on with the real practice of yoga. Not only is his presence a good reminder to “go with the flow” regardless of whatever obstacles are in my way (especially the literal canine obstacle on my mat) I just may learn a thing or two from my favorite teacher and be reminded that yoga is so much more than the asanas we practice, but it’s also an ongoing way of life.



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About the Author


Brian Critchley is a Yoga Alliance certified teacher who trained at Inner Light Yoga Center in North Brunswick, NJ and he currently teaches private clients through his business OM Central Jersey Massage & Yoga as well as group classes at Onsen for All Wellness Center in Princeton and at various locations throughout Central New Jersey. His journey with yoga began in 1998 when he stumbled into an Iyengar class at Princeton University with tight hamstrings and an interest in finding an oasis from the overachieving culture of the Ivy League. Over the years he has practiced with teachers in the Iyengar, Anusara, Kundalini, Ashtanga and Vinyasa traditions and prefers to teach with a strong focus on alignment and the inherent joy of movement.


In 2010 Brian and a fellow teacher founded New Jersey Namaste News, a yoga lifestyle and holistic health magazine for the Central New Jersey region. In addition to his role as Co-Publisher, he is also the Editor-in-Chief and Advertising/Marketing Specialist for the project. The magazine publishes quarterly and reaches 10,000 yogis and potential yogis with each issue.



Visit his blog: http://justbenow.wordpress.com


New Jersey Namaste News

(732) 659-7365 / www.njnamastenews.com


OM Central Jersey Massage & Yoga

(609) 306-2618 / http://omcentraljerseymassage.com





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