Every morning as I slowly become awake, I take my time opening my eyes because I know that within one second of that happening my dog, Barney, will be standing on my chest aiming to lick me on the face 100 times – his tail is always wagging vigorously and he is just so excited about the new day. I imagine he is thinking, “Will she walk me? Will I get a bone? Maybe I can chase some rabbits? Will I get some treats?” My boy is eternally optimistic and it has made me realise we can all learn some lessons about living life from our pets.
Here are 6 lessons we can learn from my dog
1. Breathe from your belly
Barney instinctively knows how to breathe deeply. When I watch him sleeping I’ve noticed that his belly AND his chest always rise when he breathes in and lower when he breathes out. This is the best way to breathe, to tell the body & the brain that we are safe and there is no reason to be stressed. However, us humans tend to shallow breathe, mainly just feeling it in the chest. Often we breath in the opposite way, our chest and belly retracting when we breathe in and expanding as we breathe out. This shallow breath is a signal to the body that we are stressed and can result in the blood flow moving to arms and legs as part of the fight or flight response. Then we have less blood flow to our belly and our brain meaning we can have poor digestion and brain fog.
So take some breathing tips from Barney and begin to breathe deeply. Practice by placing one hand on your belly and one on your chest. As you breathe in let your belly expand and then your chest. As you breathe out your chest will start to lower first. If this feels weird, just keep practicing and even force it for a bit. Soon it will become second nature.
2. Stretch, all day, every day
Many English names for classic yoga poses are named after dogs – downward facing dog and upward facing dog are two that come to mind. And the reason for this is, dogs do these poses instinctively. When every Barney gets up from a sleep he does a down dog and moves straight into updog. And yes, he makes me jealous – it’s just so effortless for him. But I can tell it makes him feel good and makes his body ready for what will come next (usually some rough-housing with his mate Rozzy, or a long walk or even just a few crazy sprinting laps around the back yard). Humans tend to get straight out of bed without a thought to stretching. No wonder we all feel so tight & sore!
Do as Barney does and start a regular stretching practice – aim to do it every day. If you aren’t sure where to start then you can join my free 7 days of yoga course to learn a classic sun salutation (including the downward facing dog pose) and notice how supple and lean your body gets!.
3. Know the importance of rest
You can’t play with your mates and go for long walks with your owner if you’re not getting enough rest! Dogs will sleep for most of the day if you let them. And although I don’t actually advocate that for humans… I do think we can learn from the way dogs sleep at night. They start to wind down and rest from dusk and then sleep right through until dawn. They prioritise their rest knowing they’ll need the energy to get the most of the next day. No wonder Barney is so excitable when he wakes up in the morning!
Learn to understand what your body is telling you! I had a client that said she was eating a lot after work because she was feeling tired and the food was keeping her awake. I asked her why she wouldn’t just have a nap instead? She said that she’d feel guilty sleeping during a week day (mind you she was also feeling guilty about eating so much after work too!) I asked her if she could imagine sleeping every single day after work and she said no, she just needed a bit of catch up. So that’s what she did for a couple of days. And it solved 2 problems – her tiredness and her need to binge after work. So do as this client (and Barney) does, if you need to rest, rest. You will be way more productive if you do!
4. Ask for what you want – especially affection
My boy, Barney, will come up to me, jump on my lap, place his paws on my chest and try to give me a kiss. Or he’ll climb up right onto my chest and have a sleep. Or if it’s cold he’ll nudge me in my sleep so I lift my blankets and he can get under the covers. This boy is not afraid to ask for affection, cuddles or love. Unfortunately us humans can make this all very complicated. Partners can often have a running tally in their minds (“I instigated affection last time. It’s his/her turn”). We can need a hug but think that the other person “should be able to tell”. And people who might be interested in each other will end up with nothing because no one will make the first move.
Next time you need a cuddle, just ask someone! Nudge them until they do it. Believe me, Barney gets a lot of love & affection so asking directly is working for him.
5. Appreciate your food
When Barney is eating a meal or enjoying a treat he is focused on that and nothing else. He nudges his treats with his nose, licks them a few times, takes them to a quiet corner and then eats them. I wish I could say he eats them slowly but that is not the case! However we can all learn from dogs and just eat when its meal times. We don’t see dogs playing ball or going for a run in the middle of their meals. We should aim to do the same – no checking emails or reading. Just eat. And appreciate the food.
6. Do what makes you happy
My boy only does what makes him happy! If he is unhappy with a situation he lets me know. He doesn’t “put up” with things. We can all learn from this. Make the most of every moment, do what makes you feel good. You’ll be waking up raring to go in no time.
I’d love to know, what life lessons have you learned from your pet?
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