Interview with Mahny Djahanguiri, Doga Expert and Author
Interview with Mahny Djahanguiri, Doga Expert and Author
Recently, I had the great pleasure of interviewing Mahny Djahanguiri, Europe’s leading Doga expert and author of the recent book entitled, DOGA – Yoga for you and your dog. Mahny resides and teaches yoga and Doga in London, England. She has also appeared on a famous television show, Made in Chelsea, where, soon after, Doga received significant press. According to Mahny, “I believe dogs are natural healers. Doga is a symbiotic, organic bonding exercise for canine and human – the two go hand-in-hand or rather, hand-in-paw!” Mahny also stated that, “Our dogs are so totally attached to us; therefore, whenever we change mood, body language, posture, and breath, for example, our dogs immediately feel that transformation on a metaphysical energetic level and transform with us.” This is a fascinating interview, especially for those of you who are dog and yoga lovers! Please visit Mahny Djahanguiri’s website to learn more about Doga. (Further, you can view videos of Doga here.)
KATHERINE CARVER: What is Doga?
MAHNY DJAHANGUIRI: Doga is yoga for you and your dog, which applies the ancient tools and principles of yoga, deepening your “natural bond” with nature. Doga is a symbiotic, organic yoga practice you can share with your dog, much like mummy and baby yoga. The dog aids as a weight or, if heavier, aids as a yoga bolster.
It actually feels reassuring for both the human and the dog to have our dog sit on our lap, on our hip, or folding over a large dog whilst performing traditional yoga.
People often think I teach doggie yoga; however, it is impossible, and it is also extremely harmful to stretch or twist your dog. Doga is human yoga that encourages each dog’s participation.
KATHERINE CARVER: What are the origins of Doga?
MAHNY DJAHANGUIRI: Doga was founded several years ago by a U.S. yoga teacher named Suzy Teitelmam. She noticed whenever she was on her yoga mat, her poodles liked to join in. She developed yoga poses that involves lifting her dogs into poses and using their weight as an extra challenge but also simultaneously creating a fun experience.
KATHERINE CARVER: How does a dog actually practice Doga?
MAHNY DJAHANGUIRI: The dogs don’t actually do much – they don’t do human yoga poses – but they absorb our energy. They don’t practice they just feel your vibration and energy freely without judgment. So as we practice our yoga, they are invited to lie on our yoga mat while we dedicate our attention on our physical yoga practice. When the time is right, you can try to incorporate your dog into your yoga practice. Small dogs generally act as weights; and large dogs become a support – much like a yoga block. Throughout the practice we focus on breathing and transferring that breath onto our dog. Our dogs are so totally attached to us; therefore, whenever we change mood, body language, posture, and breath, for example, our dogs immediately feel that transformation on a metaphysical energetic level and transform with us.
KATHERINE CARVER: In your experience, do most dogs, of various sizes and breeds, participate and enjoy Doga?
MAHNY DJAHANGUIRI: All dogs are welcome in Doga. And, surprisingly enough, it’s the larger size dogs that usually settle on the yoga mat first. Smaller dogs often struggle with “separation anxiety” oftentimes the human is being overprotective due to the size of their dog – instead of allowing a small dog to act out a “large dog” attitude, i.e., not using leads.
So, I find that breeds such as Chihuahuas, Dachshunds, and Pomeranians are more unsettled as compared to other larger breeds such as Staffordshire Bull Terriers, Labradors, Terriers, and Pugs, for example. It can take up to two Doga sessions to transform the human and the dog into a calm, safe, and relaxed state of being.
From my observations, dogs absolutely love and enjoy peace and tranquility. A calm serene environment is where they can be lazy, begin stretching, and rolling over on their backs in a supine/surrender position.
Additionally, we apply touch, massage, breath control, and chanting on our dogs and they are extremely receptive to touch and sound vibration.
KATHERINE CARVER: How did you discover and come to practice Doga?
MAHNY DJAHANGUIRI: I’ve been an ashtanga yoga practitioner and teacher for the past fifteen years. Doga began while working as a yoga therapist at a children’s shelter for traumatized, neglected, and abused children. My clients ranged in ages from three to fifteen years old. At the children’s shelter, I witnessed everything I needed to see to learn about “attachment theory.” These kids, due to their awful circumstances, were craving more attention than the average “healthy child.” In the child’s mind, any attention was good even if it was abusive. Their loyalty towards the parent/the abuser was heart wrenching. (This reminded me so much of the dog mentality.)
At the children’s shelter, the children’s central nervous systems were totally out of whack, as they struggled each day to survive due to neglect, etc. Furthermore, the children’s spine and brain couldn’t develop properly due to lack of care, food, health, and emotional well-being. Their brains were accustomed to solely functioning on adrenaline.
In my work at the children’s shelter, I used intense yogic breathing to help soothe my central nervous system, which in effect, calmed the children’s nervous systems as well. When the children became calm, I oftentimes incorporated massage, various breathing techniques, and sound vibration.
Doga evolved from the methods and techniques I had been applying during my tenure at the children’s shelter. The children’s “triggers” were similar to dogs’ “triggers.” It was all about survival and hierarchy of the pack. There was always the “ring leader” or pack leader. Once everyone found their place in the pack, things settled. Slowly, I began to gain respect and trust of the children at the shelter and I became the leader of the gang though my own stillness, wisdom, and courage. I gained respect, and the children all seemed to calm down and “copy” my breathing. This same process happens in Doga, too. It’s phenomenal.
KATHERINE CARVER: How has your life changed since practicing and teaching Doga?
MAHNY DJAHANGUIRI: I cannot imagine my life without my dogs and yoga. To be able to combine the two and make a living from it, writing the first book about Doga, and becoming an expert and author of Doga, is a dream come true. It was always my mission to work with “the innocent.” It has become my mission to work with children and dogs applying yoga to help them restore faith in humanity.
I want to open a yoga center, hopefully in the United States, that provides yoga/Doga for rescue animals and children with emotional, neurological, and biophysical issues. I’d like to explore how a rescue dog can potentially help a child with autism and vice versa. Yoga will be among one of the tools I’d like to use as well as art, massage, and music therapy. I believe dogs are natural healers. Doga is a symbiotic, organic bonding exercise for canine and human – the two go hand-in-hand or rather hand-in-paw!
KATHERINE CARVER: How has you and Robbie’s (your dog/dogi) relationship changed and developed since practicing Doga together?
MAHNY DJAHANGUIRI: Our relationship has changed. Robbie, pictured above, copies and embraces everything I do. He has become my working partner and my canine Freudian companion. I miss him when I’m not around him. We have such a trusting relationship, that I can take him wherever I go.
We work together on so many cases – from blind autistic clients to rescue dogs that are in the process of being rehoused, for example. Robbie knows when it’s time to go to work. Sometimes I feel a little guilty because I think I might overwork him.
In our open Doga classes, I let Robbie have fun; and I try to give him as much playtime as possible when we’re out walking together. He loves jogging with me. In fact, he’s such a fast runner he out takes me. I think Robbie appreciates the fact that I get him involved in my work. We’ve had many television performances and demonstrations together. The traveling seems to unsettle him; and Robbie does not like the “performance” and “show time” aspects of giving Doga demonstrations to large audiences. I’m aware that he is a dog — and not a prop. Therefore, I never want my dog to become a show dog. I believe it’s cruel to take advantage of our dogs for superficial purposes.
KATHERINE CARVER: What are some positive benefits for humans practicing Doga?
MAHNY DJAHANGUIRI: Doga is a bonding experience. Having your dog in your yoga practice helps you deepen the natural organic relationship that already exists inside you – similar to mummy and baby yoga. You bond with the beloved and feel relaxed and at ease. This practice helps with treating anxiety disorders, depression, panic attacks, asthma, high blood pressure, heart diseases, allergies, and all other stress related diseases, etc. Doga even helps people undergoing chemotherapy.
KATHERINE CARVER: What are some positive benefits for dogs practicing Doga?
MAHNY DJAHANGUIRI: I can’t stress how important Doga is for both the human and canine. Doga is a ground breaking, revolutionary yoga therapy. Doga decreases stress levels in canines and helps with “attachment issues.” Doga also helps with each dog’s sleep and digestion since Doga replenishes the parasympathetic nervous system in dogs as well.
KATHERINE CARVER: What is most rewarding about practicing and teaching Doga?
MAHNY DJAHANGUIRI: To see people smile or cry at the end of a session – kissing their dogs and talking to them. I also enjoy observing all of the dogs lying fast asleep on our yoga mats. This all brings a tear to my and Robbie’s eyes.
KATHERINE CARVER: What artists/persons inspire your Doga work?
MAHNY DJAHANGUIRI: All of my yoga teachers from past and present are all inspirations to me. To whom I’m most humbly grateful towards is my Guru, the late Shri K Pathabi Jois; Richard Freeman; Tim Miller; Dalai Lama; and my mother. Also, Michael Jackson’s music inspires me to do good in this world. I also am influenced and inspired by Mozart, Bach, Chopin, Arcade Fire, James Bay, and Derek Paravacini. There are so many artists that inspire me to carry on.
KATHERINE CARVER: What does “being creative” mean to you?
MAHNY DJAHANGUIRI: To me, “being creative” means connecting with the divine or divinity and allowing the source energy to flow through you without resistance.
KATHERINE CARVER: What was the impetus for writing your recent book, Doga – Yoga for You and Your dog?
MAHNY DJAHANGUIRI: My dog and I were on a famous television show entitled, Made in Chelsea. Although we were only in it for 30 seconds, 6 million people viewed it. It received hype and we had features in all the main British tabloid press. My editor, Trevor Davies, called me one day after our Made In Chelsea television appearance and he asked me, “how would you like to write a book about Doga?” I remember I was standing in the middle of Robbie’s favorite park standing next to my mum. I then turned to mum and said, “Mum – they just offered me a book proposal!” I was ecstatic. It meant the world to me having a very well-known book publisher wanting to take the whole ‘Doga thing’ seriously. After fifteen years of teaching yoga, I finally received some professional recognition, which felt very rewarding.
KATHERINE CARVER: Can you tell us more about your recent book, Doga – Yoga for You and Your dog?
MAHNY DJAHANGUIRI: Doga – Yoga for You and Your dog contains twelve chapters, and it is a yoga book for humans who want to involve their dog into their yoga practice. The first two chapters describe the relationship between the yogi and dogi and how to put the yoga into the Doga. It covers the ethical and moral codes of conduct based on the 8 limbs of ashtanga yoga founded by Patanjali who lived in 800 B.C.
The third chapter discusses breathing, followed by over one hundred pages of individual Doga poses to vinyasa flow yoga sequences. The poses gradually become more challenging for the practitioner, not the dog. Each Doga pose is accompanied by text outlining the benefit for the human and the dog. The remaining chapters are dedicated to canine massage and Vedic chanting that helps quiets the human and the dog’s parasympathetic nervous system.
KATHERINE CARVER: Do you think that Doga classes will become even more prevalent in the near future? There appears to be quite a large Doga following presently.
MAHNY DJAHANGUIRI: Indeed! I think there will soon be a Doga pandemic “outbreak” worldwide. I’ve had hundreds of yoga teachers, vets, trainers, and behaviorist asking when I will begin the Dogsmahny TM teachers training. I’m happy to say the first teachers training will begin next March 2016 in London.
I want to see Doga being incorporated in every therapeutic aspect — incorporated into schools, shelters, clinics, and hospitals, etc. We need to learn so much more about the animal kingdom and what connects us to nature.
I’m also delighted to announce my first YouTube channel Dogamahny which you can now subscribe to. So you now can practice Doga at home with Robbie and I, especially if you live outside of the London area.
KATHERINE CARVER: How can people view and purchase your book and learn more about Doga and your work?
MAHNY DJAHANGUIRI: My YouTube Channel, Dogamahny Yoga for You and Your Dog, launched recently on November 2, 2015.
You can purchase my book, Doga – Yoga for You and Your dog, from Amazon or visit your local bookstore. My book is available at Barnes & Noble, Waterstones, WHSmith, and many other bookstores throughout the world. The U.S. and Canadian book release was June 5, 2015, Hamlyn.
Hopefully well be touring the United States within the next year giving demos and talks and book signing events.
All images contained in this interview are courtesy of Mahny Djahanguiri; Octopus Publishing; Brite Space Partners; and Sweat Studios.
You can read additional interviews here.
Wow! I have never heard of doga before…. How interesting!!