Hong Kong’s pampered pooches take yoga classes 香港嬌狗 上瑜珈課沉澱心靈

Sat, Oct 29, 2011 - Page 13

Hong Kong’s pampered canines may have their own spas complete with jacuzzis and massage, but it can still be difficult for a dog to find inner peace. Help is now at hand in the shape of yoga instructor Suzette Ackermann and her yoga class — for dogs.

Each Saturday morning in the city’s Sheung Wan district, owners massage their pets before bringing them into postures such as the cobra pose, in which the hind legs are stretched out to the rear, as soothing music plays.

“You want to try and calm the dog down, so just touch along either side of the spine, then the rib cage, then the belly,” Ackermann — a South African dance and yoga teacher who started the sessions a year ago — tells the class.

She leads the class in tandem with her seven-year-old Pekinese, Snowball, who, Ackermann told AFP, has been her inspiration.

The one-eyed, utterly relaxed animal with fluffy white fur has become a local celebrity through dog yoga, and is often recognized in the street from her TV appearances.

“Snowball’s like a Zen Buddha,” Ackermann says. “She goes into all the poses ... She just doesn’t care, which is perfect in the yoga sense that she has no ego, no attachment, she’s just present.”

“When I practice [yoga] at home, she will just come up to the mat with me. She does it naturally.”

Ackermann and Snowball have been doing yoga together at home for years, but the idea of teaching classes in dog yoga, or “doga,” was suggested by a Japanese groomer at Pawette, the “deluxe pet boutique, salon and spa” that organizes the classes with Ackermann.

Doga has made inroads in pet-loving Japan, as well as in the US, where teachers Suzi Teitelman and Amy Stevens have both issued doga DVDs. But Ackermann has developed her own routine to suit her clients and their canine friends.

In standing stances such as the warrior pose, the owner holds the dog with one arm. “The smaller the dog, the easier,” says Ackermann, whose class is aimed mainly at the toy dogs popular in overcrowded Hong Kong.