The Whole Kitten Kaboodle: Bringing Cats Into Yoga Class…

The Whole Kitten Kaboodle: Bringing Cats Into Yoga Class

As class opens, I settle into Child pose, knees apart, toes touching, forehead on the mat. Just before my eyes close I spy a furry head between my heels. A white and yellow kitten slips up under my body, all whiskers and wide-eyed curiosity.

“You will be visited by a cat while you’re in Child,” says the yoga teacher as the kitten touches her nose to my chin and then ducks out under my armpit. “They love it when we are on their level.”

This is Cats on Mats, a yoga experience like none other—and the newest craze to sweep yoga studios nationwide.

Adoptable Felines

Here at Irvington Wellness Center in Indianapolis, 15 adoptable kittens and cats romp, explore, cuddle, and purr their way through the hour-long class. The studio partners with Kitty Castaways Cat Rescue to introduce kitties to potential adopters through a relaxed yoga session.

“You will have to remember to relax your face from grinning,” instructor Gaynell Collier-Magar (500 hour RYT) warns at the start, all smiles herself. Giggling is encouraged in this lighthearted class, where any given posture might result in the irresistible urge to cuddle a kitten.

Natural Teachers

Cats are natural yogis and yoginis, Gaynell notes. They have much to teach us about being in our bodies, in the moment, and in our joy. As she begins guiding us into the gentle movements of—what else?—Cat/Cow, she continually draws our attention back to connection. Connection with our bodies, with our breath, with the here-and-now, and with “the other creatures in the room.”

Some of those creatures tear through the space, chasing jingly balls or their pals. A tortoiseshell kitten leaps onto a table next to a Buddha statue and begins to groom himself. Others weave between our limbs as we rise into Downward Facing Dog and step into a forward fold. We roll up to standing, and bring our smiles into Mountain pose.

Finding Homes

As we swan dive down to touch the mat, Gaynell says, “The cat who meets you in your forward fold is the one you’re going home with.” Not exactly, but four kitties do find homes by the end of the afternoon.

Helping a Local Rescue

Cindy Jennings, who operates Kitty Castaways Cat Rescue, has shepherded her feline charges into the bamboo-floored studio space for three sold-out classes, with more planned for the near future. A veteran, Cindy served in Afghanistan, and now her service takes a different form as she dedicates her off-work hours to rescuing cats. Today, with her assistants, she tends to the litter box, mediates any potential kitten-spats—and watches that no cats get squished, say under a spine lowering down from Bridge pose.

She also brings adoption paperwork. Irvington Wellness Center’s partnership with Castaway Kitties has resulted in eight kittens being adopted this year. The events have raised more than $1500 for the rescue, helping to provide food and veterinary services for the roughly 50 felines currently in its care.

Purring and Savasana

With class drawing to a close, Gaynell brings the vibe down, and the feline energy in the room quiets too. We stretch out in savasana for the closing meditation, and purring begins to emanate through the room. The cats all drift, some on top of new human friends, several in a sweet kitten-pile on a folded blanket.

Tips for Bringing Cats into Classes

If you want to offer an experience like Cats on Mats in your studio, here are some pointers:

  • Designate a portion of class fees to support the partnering rescue organization, and offer a donation box so people can give directly as well.
  • Allow ample time for interaction between cats and humans before class starts and at the close.
  • Keep props to a minimum; unless a participant specifically needs a blanket, pillow or bolster, leave those off the floor.
  • To deal with any allergy issues, plan to launder all blankets, wipe studio mats thoroughly, and mop the floor afterward.
  • Tailor the practice to the bodies in the room, both feline and human. (This might mean extending time for postures like Cobra, Bow, and Locust if a cat decides to settle in for a cozy snooze on a participant’s low back.)

Kitty Castaways: http://www.kittycastaways.org/

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Shawndra Miller

Shawndra Miller is an energy worker and writer in Indianapolis. A certified ThetaHealing® practitioner, she offers one-on-one energy work, classes, and collaborative events that connect people to a wider sense of what's possible in their bodies, energies, lives, and the larger world. Tailoring sessions to each client, she blends energetic and emotional clearing methods that she mastered during a decade of recovery from fibromyalgia. She blogs weekly on community resilience and personal transformation at shawndramiller.com/blog.

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