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Must love dogs



At Astor Street Dance Studio, co-owner Chris Jansen welcomes dogs to class.

Downward dog takes on new meaning when you add, well, a dog.

At Astor Street Dance Studio, bringing your puppy to yoga is a Sunday morning ritual. Co-owner Chris Jansen introduced the class in February out of sheer convenience. "I am always bringing my dogs to class," he says. "It just made sense to me that I should try to get this (doga) going."

In New York or Chicago doga classes, owners gently stretch their dogs into positions like "upward paw pose." But manipulating a pet didnít feel right to Jansen. Heíd rather let Igor, Piggy and Bruno wander around and interact on their own terms. "I canít imagine being an animal and having someone try to put me in any position that I didnít want to do. I want the dogs to be comfortable in class and to want to come back as much as the people do."

"I am one of those dog owners who thinks their dog should be able to go anywhere with them," says Sara Rossman DeNisco, a figure-skating coach and human resource associate. "My husband and family think itís hilarious and not surprising that I attend doga. My favorite part is using Rex as a crutch when I am lazy. Heís a strong dog so itís nice to have him to lean on."

Jansen leads yogis through the poses of a gentle but effective yoga class and the dogs act like dogs. Strike Warrior 1 while Homer, a golden retriever, awaits attention. Whatís more Zen than petting a happy pup? "He likes having somewhere welcoming to go to socialize with dogs and people," owner Kristen Mekemson says. "I love how accepting everyone is."

Melissa Reynolds takes advantage of doga class to interact with her favorite types of dogs ó other peopleís. "Itís very therapeutic," she says. "Itís a great way to interact and get the benefit and energy of a pet without having all the responsibility ó kind of like being a grandparent."

Doga (You, Your Yoga Mat and Your Dog)

$12 per person; dogs are free10-11:15 a.m. Sundays

Astor Street Dance Studio1228 N. Astor St., Milwaukee(414) 213-1856