My Cat Does Yoga
I think she’s down for her afternoon nap. She’s not in any of her usual places, the bed, table, dining chairs, bathroom rug, kitchen tiles. She must be deep in the dark depths of the closet where it is cool and quiet.
Yes!!! I’ll get to practice alone this time!
I pull out my yoga mat and press play on my Spotify Playlist.
As I adjust myself into Virasana and close my eyes, I bring attention to my breath.
Then I flicker my eyes open and Boom! There she is sprawling out on my notes in front of me.
She just couldn’t resist an opportunity to do yoga with me.
Okay, I compromise, let’s do a seated forward fold together.
The warmth of her little body and soft fur send waves of joy through my system. Apparently, the calming effect of owning a cat triggers the release of oxytocin, the hormone known for inducing feelings of love and trust. Strangely, according to an Austrian study conducted in 2003, having a cat in the house is the emotional equivalent of having a romantic partner.
I haven’t always been a cat lady. I would say that I didn’t even like cats until about seven years ago. Sometimes I would go over to Shawn and Nicoletta’s place and their American Short Hair Tabby would like to sit in my lap and purr while we watched movies. I was shocked at this friendly behavior, but I thoroughly enjoyed it. I had a previous notion that cats were snobby and certainly didn’t like strangers.
Four years later, when a co-worker was looking for someone to watch his cat for six months of traveling, I was surprised to find myself volunteering. I had heard rumors about this crazy cat, Kiki…He never came back for her.
Kiki is a Maine Coone. With various legends of ancestry leading back exclusively to the Queen of England, France, or other royalty, she certainly carries a majestic essence.
It took us a while to settle into the groove of living with each other, but now it feels so natural. While dog lovers tend to be the life of the party, cat owners like myself are quieter and more introverted.
We start the day in my cozy chair with a cappuccino as I begin writing. She hops up onto my keyboard and I tuck her into the space between my hip and the armchair. Sometimes I wrap her in the blanket, she purrs constantly for at least 30 minutes.
Is it ironic that cat ownership often suggests both sensitivity and intelligence?
Since we’ve connected, I never feel lonely at home. Though cats are often known for their independence, the bond between a cat and its owner reinforces companionship. Also, my immune system is boosted as my resistance is strengthened against pet dander and fur, as this exposure decreases my risk for allergies and asthma.
Further, since I’ve been a cat owner, other cats have been drawn to me wherever I go.
Cats are excellent yogis because they listen to their body.
When they wake from a nap, cats immediately stretch out with a forward fold or even a Downward Facing Dog Pose. This keeps them supple and flexible.
I love witnessing Kiki taking a gentle twist or leg-behind-the-head bind, whenever she needs to. She inspires me to do the same.
The main pose that us humans imitate from these fellow creatures is Cat Pose, Marjaryasana.
In this posture, we begin by kneeling, aligning our knees under our hips and our wrists under our shoulders. This position strengthens our wrists. If your knee caps hurt, you can fold your mat or place a firm blanket under your knees. The best way to practice cat is in conjuction with cow, so that we can undulate our spine, alternately opening our front and back sides.
As we inhale into cow, Bitilasana in Sanskrit, we drop our belly towards the earth and lift our shoulder blades back and behind, reaching our ears away from the shoulders and lift our head. As we exhale into cat, we gently round our spine, leading our chin towards our chest, and lifting our belly up to the sky. Sending our tailbone down as we press the ground away, I like to press my untucked toenails into the earth for more grounding stability.
This flow stimulates the nervous function, improves spinal mobility and massages our abdominal organs. Undulation is just the right amount of movement to nourish discs and ligaments. Our spinal discs depend on gentle movements to stay healthy. Fluid filled discs provide cushion between the vertebrae, which can shrink and bulge when not in optimal condition.
Coordinating this movement with your breathing relieves stress and calms the mind. I like to practice at least 5 full breaths each time I do these poses, encouraging the breath to become slow and deep. This sequence also helps to develop posture awareness and balance.
More Kiki Cuteness:
Does your cat do yoga?
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