What is Cat Yoga?
Cat yoga is a form of yoga that incorporates cats into the practice. It originated in the early 2010s as cat cafes began growing in popularity. The basic concept of cat yoga is to hold yoga poses while cats walk around, lie on, or interact with the yogis.
Unlike dog yoga which requires active participation from dogs, cat yoga relies on the natural behaviors and temperaments of cats. Cats may walk across people's mats, sit on their laps, cuddle up into poses, or simply observe nearby during the class. Cat yoga encourages relaxation through gentle yoga and meditation while enjoying the soothing presence of purring cats.
Cat yoga provides a unique way to exercise mindfulness, body awareness, and inner calm with cats as our teachers.
The Benefits of Cat Yoga
Cat yoga provides numerous benefits for both humans and cats. On a physical level, cat yoga is a light form of exercise that can help improve flexibility, balance, and coordination. The stretching, balancing, and mindful movements involved in cat yoga poses gently work the muscles while also encouraging mindfulness and focus.
For mental health, the relaxing nature of cat yoga can reduce stress, anxiety, and depression. Petting and playing with cats releases oxytocin, the “feel good” hormone that boosts mood. Focusing on cat yoga poses and being present with the cats requires concentration that redirects thoughts away from stress. The cute cat antics and purring also induces smiles and laughter, relieving tension.
Cat yoga is beneficial for the cats as well. The interaction provides exercise, mental stimulation, and affection for the cats. Forming a bond through cat yoga enriches the cat's social connections. The yoga poses and games get them moving and exercising. Learning new tricks and behaviors challenges their minds. Cat yoga provides a positive and healthy activity for both humans and cats.
How to Get Started with Cat Yoga
Interested in trying cat yoga but not sure where to begin? Here are some tips for getting started with this purr-fect form of yoga.
Find a Class
Taking a class is a great way to learn the basics of cat yoga. Look for cat yoga classes at your local yoga studio or animal shelter. Some pet stores and cat cafes also offer cat yoga classes.
Classes provide guidance on handling cats safely and learning poses. The cats are often available for adoption too!
Practice at Home
You can also do cat yoga at home with your own cat or foster cat. Make sure your cat is comfortable being held and touched first. Start slow with basic stretching while holding your cat. Avoid sudden movements or squeezing your cat too tightly. Let your cat guide the pace and provide treats and pets as positive reinforcement.
Yoga Poses for You and Your Cat
Discover these yoga poses that not only stretch your body, but also tug at your cat's playful heartstrings.
Child’s Pose (Balasana)
The Child’s Pose allows your cat to comfortably nestle under you, a safe and delightful experience. Begin on your hands and knees. Widen your knees, toes touching. Push your hips backward onto your heels. Extend your arms forward and relax your forehead on the ground. This pose invites cats to create a little burrow beneath you and maybe even enjoy some head scratches.
Mountain Pose (Tadasana)
Mountain Pose is a basic standing posture that exemplifies readiness. Stand up straight, feet hip-width apart, and hands at your sides. While you're in this pose, your cat may weave between your legs, or, you can playfully dangle a toy above their head for them to jump at, adding fun to your practice.
Downward-Facing Dog (Adho Mukha Svanasana)
Besides benefiting the body, the Downward Dog can also turn into a fun tunnel for your cat. Begin on your hands and knees. Tuck your toes under and lift your knees off the floor, moving your hips towards the ceiling. Look toward your feet and let your head hang loose. Your feline friend will enjoy walking or playing under your arched body.
Tree Pose (Vrksasana)
Tree Pose encourages stability and focus, something cats excel at. Stand straight with your feet together. Shift your weight to your left foot, bringing your right foot up to your left inner thigh. Balance on the left foot, placing your hands in a prayer pose at your chest. As you try to maintain equilibrium, your cat may also delight in your focus and can rub against your stationary leg for a cuddle.
Corpse Pose (Savasana)
The Corpse Pose ends your yoga session by lying prone, helping you to feel grounded, relaxed and to keenly feel the body's sensations. As you lay on your back, arms and legs extended loosely, your cat may decide to curl up on your stomach or chest, providing a warm, calming presence to enhance relaxation. Attempting these poses will encourage interaction with your beloved feline, while also engaging in a rewarding yoga practice. Be mindful of where your cat might be during your practice, to ensure safety and comfort for the both of you.
Safety Tips for Cat Yoga
Cat yoga can provide fun-filled playtime for you and your furry friend, if approached with due care and attention. Here are some tips:
Avoid forcing your cat into any specific poses. Simply create opportunities for your cat to interact as you adopt each pose. If your cat shows any signs of discomfort, immediately cease the attempt.
Keep an eye out for stress indicators — ears pinned back, dilated eyes, vigorous tail movements or anxious meows. At any hint of stress, stop and calm them with gentle stroking and reassuring words.
Ensure water is accessible for your cat both before and after the session to keep them hydrated.
Confirm your cat is in good health and fit for light play. Avoid engaging older cats or those with mobility or respiratory conditions in this activity.
Opt for a quiet, distraction-free space to foster concentration for both you and your cat.
Reward your cat with treats and cuddles intermittently throughout the session, building an association of cat yoga with positivity.
If any aggressive behavior like scratching or biting surfaces, immediately stop the session and give your cat space to unwind.
Remember, the primary goal is to make this shared time with your cat uplifting and stress-free. Follow your cat’s cues, stay alert for any signals, and wrap up the session if your cat seems uneasy.
With consistent patience and care, cat yoga can redefine relaxation and playtime for the two of you!
The Future of Cat Yoga
Cat yoga continues to grow in popularity as more people discover the joys and benefits of doing yoga with their feline friends. Several key trends point to an even brighter future for this unique activity.
As more scientific research demonstrates the health advantages of cat yoga for both cats and humans, the practice should continue gaining mainstream acceptance in the fitness and wellness community.