I’m a yoga teacher and practitioner. I have a daily yoga practice. “Practice” simply means that I’ve established yoga in my life as a regular activity that I really look forward to. And guess what? So do my cats.
A yoga practice could include any number of things — postures, breathing, meditation, even the practice of certain ethics like nonviolence. My daily yoga practice usually includes postures, breathing, and meditation. But lately it seems that my cats don’t want me to do yoga. Or maybe they just badly want to get into the picture, and in the process teach me a bit of wisdom. Let’s say as far as the wisdom teaching goes, it wouldn’t be the first time.
Marjariasana, a position in yoga, is also called cat tilt (or cat/cow) pose by Shutterstock.com’>
Here’s what I mean.
1. My yoga practice with postures
Yoga postures are usually done on a yoga “sticky” mat, and these mats seem to attract cats without fail. I think my cats love the slight foamy softness of a yoga mat — something they can sink their claws into. It also acts as a definable space on the floor, and many of us know that cats seem to love those definable spaces (think small rugs, boxes, or yoga mats).
Thank goodness I am pretty body aware. Otherwise, I might injure myself when I do yoga. Why? The cats are always on the mat, and I have to keep contorting my poses just to keep going. Many of the poses are standing poses that require feet to be on the mat in certain places. But quite often, there is a cat exactly where a foot needs to go. The cats have the uncanny ability to see into the future when it comes to this. I often end up readjusting both feet. Sometimes one foot has to go off the mat; sometimes both feet are barely on the mat.
Why don’t I just move the cat? I guess I am too gentle. And I enjoy their presence. I like to do yoga with them nearby.
Moving into deeper thinking, perhaps the cats are giving me a not-so-subtle lesson in non-attachment (also called non-possessiveness; another one of the yoga ethics). Their presence on my mat forces me to not get too attached to any one way of doing things, and to remain open to the present and to possibilities. I told you they were my teachers.
2. My breathing
Actually, there are very few ways my cats can interfere with my breathing in yoga practice. I suppose if I ended a practice in relaxation pose, and a very heavy cat sat on my chest, he might possibly impair my breathing. My heaviest cat is Rama, but he’s not much for draping himself over me in that way. I’m not sure he’d be heavy enough, anyway.
3. My meditation
Much like a yoga mat, my seated meditation seems to draw the cats right into me. I sit cross-legged on the floor, sometimes seated on a thin cushion to facilitate a straight spine (important for meditation). Often, it’s a matter of moments before a cat sidles up to me and crawls into my lap. The cats who do this are usually Kieran and Jamie. This is particularly special in Jamie’s case, because she’s normally not much of a lap cat. I wonder if there is something about the quiet centering of meditation that the cats pick up on.
I think my cats want me to meditate, because once in my lap, they don’t move. I could probably meditate for two hours without a cat moving, and that would be an accomplishment. (I think the longest I’ve sat in meditation is 45 minutes to an hour). Since I (again) don’t have the heart to move the cat, I instead enjoy their presence. Perhaps they are encouraging me to meditate for longer and longer periods of time — not a bad thing! Being a lazy human, I’m prone to do a five or 10 minute meditation and call it good. With my wise teacher in my lap, however, I’m forced to sit for longer and longer periods of time.
When I first thought about how my cats intersect with my yoga practice, it seemed as if they were interfering with it. But as I flip that on its side, I realize that they’re actually helping me practice yoga — by helping me be less attached to the outcome, to stay in the moment, and to appreciate and be ready for their unique gifts.
Do you do yoga? Does your cat help or hinder your practice? Tell us in the comments.
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About Catherine Holm: Told that she is funny but doesn’t know it, accused of being an unintentional con artist by her husband, quiet, with frequent unannounced bursts into dancing liveliness, Cat Holm loves writing about, working for, and living with cats. She is the author of The Great Purr, the cat-themed memoir Driving with Cats: Ours for a Short Time, the creator of Ann Catanzaro cat fantasy story gift books, and the author of two short story collections. She loves to dance, be outside whenever possible, read, play with cats, make music, do and teach yoga, and write. Cat lives in the woods, which she loves as much as really dark chocolate, and gets regular inspiration shots along with her double espresso shots from the city.