Not actual Yoga Dog, just a yoga dog.
Over ten years ago I began doing yoga after a scary bout with cancer. I went to classes at an athletic club and began my yoga practice with a group of older people who were at various levels of fitness.
At this time I knew I was going to survive and my mood was good. Still, I was weak from chemo, radiation, and a complicated operation that had impacted half my body. I did yoga with the grim resolve that I had to do it, needed to do it, and so did it with little enjoyment or appreciation beyond the sweetness for life felt when I could stop.
One woman who attended the class trained dogs for the seeing impaired. For several weeks she brought a solemn-looking white lab to class, spreading a towel for her to lie on at the back of the room. She explained that the dog needed to adjust to not being part of people activity and if no one objected she would do this regularly.
For weeks the dog lay there quietly and observed the craziness of yoga as we practiced it.
I continued to struggle with the class but ultimately felt that the poses, effort, pulling and pushing, disappointment and frustration, were good for me.
One day at the end of class when we were all lying on our mats, the dog ambled past two other people, resolutely standing over me and affectionately licking my face. I giggled uncontrollably and couldn’t help but give the dog a hug.
Did the dog know that I needed some empathy at the moment? I like to think so.
I did not go on to become a “dog person,” as I am still allergic to dogs even if I have a greater appreciation for them. But the experience made me aware of the value of animal companionship in a way that I had not previously.
The practice of yoga is full of instructors spouting word salads of cosmic enrichment and tantric wonder. But here indeed was a real surprise, going all but uncommented on. That day Yoga Dog licked my face, the universe spoke.