Mahny Djahanguiri, is the owner and founder of the successful London based Doga studio Dogamahny.
Born in Zurich but growing up in London, Mahny spent a proportion of her childhood admiring the natural qualities and peace and serenity of the Swiss Alps.
In 1996 she accidentally stumbled across yoga and the idea of a Dog studio in 2009, whilst studying Yoga in Los Angeles.
Mahny has also appeared on Made in Chelsea in 2013, and was offered a publishing deal soon after, which is a catalyst for her several Yoga guides.
We were lucky enough to interview Mahny about her London based Dogs studio and asked her questions about Doga, her studio and how she found herself getting into the yoga industry.
How did you find yourself moving from Switzerland to the UK? What made you decide this was a good place to build your business?
I have lived more than half my life in London. My mum is from Hackney, so she’s a proper Londoner! I was born in Zurich but have always had an affinity with London since my mum’s family lived here.
London was more compelling and exciting to venture out and start my adult life – I was in the musical theatre industry in my early 20s.
I then stumbled across yoga by accident in 1996 and never looked back.
I’ve been teaching over 20 years and have vast experience teaching adults and kids. Dogs became my passion around 2005.
The vision of DOGA came to me when I was in Los Angeles studying yoga in 2009. Something clicked. 2012 was when I began teaching my first one-to-one dog yoga client.
Do you notice behavioural differences in dogs after they attend classes?
Most definitely there is a ” before and after effect” in dogs through the class. Doga washes away all the tension in owners through a 90-minute session of tantric breathing, Vedic chanting and yoga asana.
The dogs roam around and do what they like at the beginning of the session. But as the owner begins to destress and the central nervous system (which governs the fight or flight system) is being replenished, the dogs begin to relax and calm down.
I have many photos of guests from the session with their dog fast asleep. Repeated sessions allow the dogs to become used to this and it promotes bonding between owner and dog.
How does this effectively decrease their stress levels?
My theory from teaching mummy and toddler yoga classes over numerous years and dedicating my studies of the central nervous system in abused children follows:
In the way a new born baby’s central nervous system is entwined with its mothers in as much as, the mothers breathing system /pattern affects the babies breathing system. I think that there is NO DIFFERENCE in an owner deepening and lengthening their inhalation and exhalation and this having a direct effect on the dogs’ central nervous system i.e. decreasing heart rate, pulse in the dog.
Reason being…the dog is totally and utterly dependant on the owner’s body language, smell and taste.
But it’s phenomenal to see our change of mind /thinking /breathing having a profound effect on our animal’s behaviour. Also, our emotions – such as fear, terror, grief, joy and depression – translate onto the dogs’ behaviour. Especially with rescue dogs.
Now bring yoga into the equation and you will notice that by changing your thinking, feeling, and physical body your dog’s nervous system will absorb all this information and reflect it in their mood and behaviour.
It’s remarkable to see the transformation during the class.
Looking at it from the other side, let’s look at it from the owner’s perspective. People always focus on the dog first … but they forget to look at themselves. This is where yoga can help.
Yoga helps to focus inwards.
It helps to withdraw the senses and through posture and breathing practice we cleanse the kidneys, lower our pulse and most of all replenishes the adrenal glands releasing serotonin and oxytocin, decreasing dopamine … in the brain. THATS A FACT.
Your dog can sniff out your calm. Their inherent purpose is to aid you and ensure your safety. If your body tells them you are safe, the dog can relax and rest. Doing yoga and petting, stroking, massaging, connecting with an animal is pet therapy. It increases joy, happiness and helps with anxiety and depression.
A dog brushing past you in relaxation at the end of a 90 min session is like someone stroking you gently with a feather…It’s a stimulant.
I really believe that DOGA (when conducted in this manner) will be recognised as an animal assisted therapy as well as a therapy for rehabilitation in dogs and rescue dogs.
That’s my vision and ambition through spreading awareness and experience of DOGA.
What do dogs do in a DOGA class?
Not much other than socialise. They are off lead and free to roam around to do what they need to do as dogs. It’s the human pack that works as a collective and draws the canine back eventually into the inner circle of energy.
After 45 minutes into the session, you’ll find that most dogs have placed themselves on a mat … usually not their owners …. and have become intrigued / calmer. If the dog has completely relaxed, then it’s time to get them involved in yoga postures.
I stress thought, this isn’t the goal of DOGA. We must respect our dogs’ space. Only if they are willing and relaxed enough we may be able to lift them into various yoga poses. A large size dog over 8 kilos won’t be lifted of course.
How many times a week do you recommend people and their dogs attend a Dog class?
Ideally with a rescue dog you need a daily 45-60 min yoga practice just to signal to the dog that you are calm and in charge.
With non-rescue dogs you can still strengthen your natural bond by allowing your dog to watch or interact in your yoga self-practice, however regularly you choose to do that.
A collective group session once a fortnight or once a month is highly recommended for anxiety in dogs as much as humans.
Are there restrictions on the type of dogs you can bring?
No not at all, we love to welcome all dogs whatever size. If the dog is very anxious, then I usually advise its owner to come to a smaller size group or one to one session for the first 6 months. For the benefit of everyone in the session, all dogs must be social, vaccinated and neutered.
How do find a balance between teaching Yoga as an art form and allowing owners to connect with their dogs?
Doga is symbiotic and always in harmony with nature.
DOGA is an unleashed invitation to bond with nature.
Nature is in Balance and having the dogs around us is an added bonus!
Check out Dogamahny’s website here:
All photo credit to SweatStudio.