Kari Harendorf had grown accustomed to her six-year-old husky mix, Charlie, putting his paw on her hand and gazing up at her while she did yoga. "Charlie would come onto my mat whenever I practiced," says the Manhattan yoga teacher and former emergency veterinary technician. "Instead of moving him, I just adapted. I'd step wider into a lunge, or step over him into a Standing Forward Bend." Her practice, she says, grew into a casually choreographed form of partner yoga.
Eventually, the home sequences inspired Harendorf to start a doggie yoga class when she opened her studio, East Yoga. She publicized it at her local dog run, and at first, all she heard was skepticism. "People thought it was kind of crazy," she says. But she insisted that dogs are natural yogis: "They live in the present moment."
Before long, curious owners began bringing their furry friends to Doga, in which owners learn dog-massage techniques and modify a variety of poses with their dogs, such as deep relaxation in the "spoon" position or Triangle Pose with a forearm resting on Fido. With plenty of barking, panting, and drooling, the classes aren't exactly silent, but Harendorf says the dogs are remarkably calm by the end.
These days, the masses can enjoy Harendorf and Charlie's yogic partnership by watching their TV show on Animal Planet, K-9 Karma. Each episode begins and ends with yoga. In between, Harendorf educates the viewers about keeping dogs healthy, and Charlie goes on adventures with a yogic theme. So, a show about karma yoga might have Charlie visiting a nursing home; another episode combines lila (divine play) with agility and features Charlie weaving through poles.
Fortunately, Charlie hasn't let fame go to his head. After all, Harendorf has three other dogs at home—Camille, Rosie, and Penny—not to mention her husband and a baby girl. Her favorite thing about doga? "It's a way to foster a deeper connection with your dog."