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FEATURE: Online yoga and ‘doga’ help restore the tired body and soul

Lockdown has been a great time for people to spend more time with their dogs, as DC Thomson writer Gayle Ritchie discovered when she tried "doga" with her Labrador Toby.
Lockdown has been a great time for people to spend more time with their dogs, as DC Thomson writer Gayle Ritchie discovered when she tried "doga" with her Labrador Toby.

Gayle joins a virtual yoga class to iron out the kinks of a stressful week – and then she’s inspired to try “doga” with her labrador

Until last Friday, it had been a while since I’d practised any form of yoga. I know most of the moves, I have a yoga mat and the luxury of plenty of space at home but, without an instructor and a class full of fellow yogis, I haven’t had the inclination.

I’ve been aware of virtual live yoga and pilates classes popping up all over the net – a brilliant alternative to “real” classes during lockdown – but for one reason or another I hadn’t bothered signing up to any.

What spurred me to join one now was a rather disturbing groaning noise I produced.

I’d been bending down to pick something up and this noise just came out. It hadn’t been the first one – I’ve recently found myself making more and more of them when I move in certain ways, but particularly when pulling on socks.

Some might say it’s just a sign of getting older (God forbid!) but I reasoned these noises were the result of having become stiff and less flexible thanks to months of skipping yoga.

Keen to reclaim the days when I could silently touch my toes, I signed up for a virtual class with Angus-based Kirsty McCubbin.

Yoga instructor Kirsty McCubbin.

It was on a Friday night, at the fag-end of a rather busy, stressful week – the ideal time.

Kirsty, a 32-year-old yoga teacher and sports massage therapist, offers a series of live, online classes from her home in Tannadice, but the Friday evening one is called “flow and restore” and is as much about mindfulness as it is about challenging the body.

Once I’d managed to access the virtual class via the Zoom app, I found myself waving and smiling at a group of women all raring to get their yoga fix.

Some were regulars while a few, like me, were here for the very first time.

“The idea is that people can build a sense of flowing movement with the breath,” explained Kirsty as I shuffled around on my mat.

“There’s also time for a few restorative poses to allow the nervous system to absorb the benefits of movement, and of stillness.”

Gayle gets ready to join the virtual class.

We started off with “savasana” – the practice of gradually relaxing one body part at a time, one muscle at a time, and one thought at a time.

A few gentle moves included the child’s pose, the runner’s lunge and then the plank, to build up a little heat in the core.

Downward dogs were in abundance, as were moon salutations involving a whole series of body movements.

These were all fine and dandy but I struggled with the “half moon” – a standing pose involving serious amounts of balance and focus.

The middle section of the session was all about the flow, with repeated warrior poses merging seamlessly into one another.

That was the aim, at least, but I found myself stumbling and jolting a few times.

Luckily, you have the option of switching off your webcam, so you can avoid embarrassing yourself.

Gayle reaches for the sky.

Poses in the warrior sequence included “eagle arms”, triangle shapes, side planks and downward dogs.

The final section was all about restoration – chilling out and stretching, in essence.

Drifting away into a world of peace and relaxation, I found myself in a meditative headspace – a place I haven’t allowed myself to go for a very long time.

I was reluctant to return to reality, but the pull of a refreshing, celebratory G&T soon brought me back.

Warrior pose.

My conclusion? It was a great session – a physical and mental challenge which was extremely enjoyable, uplifting and beneficial.

Since then, I’ve pledged to do much more yoga and a major bonus is that I’ve stopped making that ghastly groaning noise quite so much. Result!


I also decided to get the dog involved for a bit of fun.

Yes, there is such as thing as dog yoga, also known as “doga”, and while I don’t expect my giant, hairy black lab to master doga fully, it will be nice to expand on the one pose we’ve achieved thus far – the downward dog!

Toby is most excellent at this, as you can see from the picture of us practising doga together in the garden. My attempt at the pose is rather shoddy in comparison.

Toby is a pro at the downward dog!

I fear Toby might be too big and heavy to lift him up into poses above my head (you’ll find photos of folk reclining while they hold chihuahuas in the air, or with pugs standing on their backs while they practise the plank) but it’ll be hilarious trying.

Toby joins in.

So why do yoga, or doga? Kirsty reckons balance poses are great for getting people “out of their heads”, even if there’s a wobble or two which often leads to a good giggle.

Yoga helps you to iron out any mental and physical kinks and, for many of us, it’s a rare oasis of calm in a world of external turmoil.

Do yoga with others, live and online, and you can be safe and yet connected, sharing a sense of community and purpose with everyone else in the class.

Kirsty’s sessions offer a real sense of self-care and nurturing and, to be honest, who doesn’t need that right now in these stressful and uncertain times?

Online yoga is great for the mind, body and soul and you can do it from the safety of your own home.
Frequent yoga sessions help you to limber up and be more bendy.


In light of the lockdown, Kirsty has moved her classes online.

They aim to give participants some movement, release and stillness.

Yoga classes include: gentle flow on Mondays at 10am; meditate and flow on Tuesdays at 8am; flow and restore on Fridays at 6pm.

Weekly and monthly deals on classes are available.

She also runs relaxation classes. All are delivered via the Zoom app.

For more details and to book, go to