The DOGA Sutras: What your Dog Can Teach You About Yoga

Lucy the dog was sentenced to wear a plastic Elizabethan cone by our vet for a month, a time frame which she has pointed out –by the look in her soft, brown retriever eyes-   is like 7 months in dog years.

As I write she’s sitting across the room in front of the floor lamp.  They appear to be identical twins, separated at birth. 

The ‘Cone of Shame,’ (aptly named from the movie “Up” as a torture device worn by Dug, a golden retriever with about the same amount of intelligence as my Lucy) has been a regular fixture in our household for the past 30 days. Although we’ve (and by “we” I mean the dog) all learned to adapt, it hasn’t always been easy.

As we left the vet’s office wearing our new accessory, we encountered a canine contemporary in the lobby. Lucy growled uncharacteristically, then hung her head.  I imagined her capitulating: “Listen, I know I look absurd now, but believe-you-me, I am considerably more intimidating without the cone.”

In the beginning, she wasn’t good with the new spacial boundaries and was constantly crashing into stuff.  Like the back of my legs, which is why I have 25 moon-shaped bruises on my calves.  She was also getting stuck on things. Like drywall and doorways.

I laughed at her and despite her low IQ, I think she knew it.  She was not pleased.

Then, on day two – coincidentally during one of my especially premenstrual days- I caught that ASPCA commercial where Sarah McLachlan sings “I will remember you” and sobbing, curled apologetically around Lucy on the floor.

Soon after, she simply got over the cone.  And moved on with her life.

Incredible.  I challenge you to name one human whose cone-sentence wouldn’t ruin their year.  Because, unlike our canine friends, our resistance to circumstances that we cannot change creates suffering.

But dogs, now, they are another story.  They would make amazing yoga teachers, for they are the picture of adaptability and contentment. (Otherwise known as Santosha, one of the Niyamas in the 8 Limbs of Yoga.)

Dogs come by the 8 Limbs naturally.  (Have you ever seen the pointed focus of a dog stalking a squirrel? Dharana, anyone?) Our dog friends could teach us a lot about yoga, so in honor of them I’ve compiled the following list:  I call it “The DOGA (get it?!  “Doga.”  Instead of Yoga.) Sutras.”

The Doga Sutras

  1. Love unconditionally
  2. Live in the moment
  3. Be humble
  4. Say you’re sorry and forgive easily (including yourself)
  5. Stand by & comfort those who need it
  6. Wag your tail at everyone, even if they yelled at you 10 minutes ago
  7. Put your loved ones before yourself
  8. Protect your family
  9. Show your true feelings & be with them
  10. Know that walks outside are the most exciting thing in the world

Finally, as a dog owner, when you come home to a 90 pound, wagging mass of I-AM-SO-GLAD-YOU’RE-HOME, it’s the ultimate reminder that just us, the literal fact that we are who we are, is good enough.

It reminds me of one of the lines from one of my favorite poems:

Even after all this time


The sun never says to the earth,
 “You owe Me.”


Look what happens
with a love like that.

It lights the whole sky.
  -Hafiz