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Feeling stressed? Why not try 'Doga'

Doga combines dogs and yoga and the results aren't always predictable.

It was invented in the US but has now spread around the world.

In the UK, it was founded by Mahny Djahanguiri, who's teaching her students how to breathe like their dogs and to release their emotions in a safe space.

The dogs seem slightly confused by what's going on around them, but they appear happy to be part of it all.

Some are even taking the opportunity to clean their paws on the yoga mat.

It's a very fitting time to be taking up Doga with the Chinese Year of the Dog beginning on 16 February 2018.

Djahanguiri says it's a good opportunity to celebrate her favourite animal.

"England is really a nation of dog lovers and we are going to celebrate the Chinese year of the dog in a really special way to demonstrate that we know that it's such an important animal," she says.

She believes dogs are naturally spiritual, because unlike humans, they don't have an ego that gets in the way.

"They can smell disease, they can smell impurity, they're healers, they're natural healers. They know what's out of balance and what's not - they know everything," she says.

Lucian Ivan has come to Doga with his Bernese mountain dog Bourbon - by some distance the heavyweight champion of the class.

Despite his size, Bourbon is a softie and gets along well with the other dogs.

"He loved it. I mean he was running around a lot wasn't he? He was having a great time. A great social event right? For dogs. So I think he loved it, I really think he loved it," says Ivan.

Simon Jacobs is returning to doga with his little dog Rolex because he enjoyed it so much the first time, despite his inherent timidity.

"Well I think at first he's quite shy of all the other dogs. He's quite a shy dog but gradually he gets more comfortable. He will come and lie in front of me during the sessions and he can sense that he's getting calmer which is quite nice," says Jacobs.

Rescue dogs are particularly welcome in the classes and Gloria Arsene has brought along Bubu.

"I think the dogs interact with you and feel everything you feel, I truly believe that and when you get to that state of peace the dog gets to a state of peace as well," she says.

Yoga is typically hosted in uncluttered and peaceful spaces.

It's a world away from Doga, where barking, humping, scratching and even snoring are all part of the cacophony.

Djahanguiri says it's the relaxed vibe that makes Doga so successful.

"Dogs are connected to nature and they don't manipulate the way humans do. By manipulation I say there's no ego, so for example when you come to a yoga class - say it's your first yoga class - you might not be that comfortable because there's all these super flexible yogis all around you or the teacher is fantastic, but they look so great, or you're distracted by mirrors or something like that. Now in doga you are so distracted because you've got dogs around you whirling and twirling and doing their thing," she says.

Owners need to let go of their dogs and not worry about them weeing or pooing on the floor, which of course happens.

One of the few rules Djahanguiri enforces throughout the session is that owners must not control their dogs: there are no leads in Doga.

She believes if the owner is fretting about their dog then they will pass on this anxiety to the animal.

She likens it to children, who will often copy the actions or mood of their parent.

The biggest trouble Djahanguiri is having in expanding her Doga brand is finding spaces in London that will allow dogs.

She says yoga studios will not allow them and instead she is forced to find more unusual yoga venues.

Today's session is taking place in a nightclub, for example, but she also uses function rooms in pubs.

There are no size restrictions for dogs taking part, but they must be social, neutered and vaccinated, and at least six months old.

A Doga session costs 25 UK pounds (approx. 35 US dollars) for 90 minutes.

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