1. Be present. Don't miss the opportunity to chase a squirrel because you're daydreaming about tomorrow's kibble. Likewise, don't miss out on the quality of your breath in a pose because you're worried about how you look, or what pose is coming next, or what's for dinner, etc.
2. Be curious, and when it doesn't work out - keep trying! I can't tell you how many times I've seen my little 15-pound dog, Penny, (that's her in the photo to the left) go up to a 70-pound lab, jump right up into his face, and lick his nose. Sometimes it goes well, and she instantly makes a new buddy. Other times? Well, let's just say some dogs don't want to be licked by a strange little dog. Either reaction does not phase my dog. She just waits for the barking to stop, and then tries again. This is how I try to approach my yoga practice--I never quite know how it's going to turn out, but I come to my mat with curiosity again and again.
3. Get your energy out. If my dog doesn't get enough exercise she wreaks havoc on my home. She chases the cat, chews my slippers, and barks like there's no tomorrow. So I take her for long walks or to the dog park as an outlet for her nervous energy. To manage my own anxieties, I go to my yoga mat. We're both a lot saner when we make time for ourselves--and the cat is a lot happier, too!
4. Don't force it. They don't call it Downward-Facing DOG for nothing! We yoga students could definitely learn a thing or two about stretching from our dogs. When my dog wakes up from a nap, she glides so effortlessly into Downward Dog it's like a dance. She sticks her tail in the air like it belongs there, but then it's over--that simple. What she doesn't do is analyze it to death and make a big fuss about it.
5. Play dead. OK, so my dog doesn't play dead on command, but she does know how to take Savasana like an old pro--and she doesn't need anyone'spermission. She listens to her own intuition and rests when she's tired. No guilt. No worries. Just bliss.
Erica Rodefer is a writer and yoga practitioner living in Charleston, SC. For more of her writing visit her blog, SpoiledYogi.com.