8 things your cat can teach you about yoga

Our cat friends know a thing or two about yoga. They're stretchy, they’re bendy, they’re strong and they know how to relax.

Bar the odd run in with the hoover, nothing bothers a cat.

So, next time you glance at your cat stretched out on the couch, don’t think of her as the laziest animal on the planet…think of her as the ultimate yoga guru!

Here are 8 things your cat can teach you about yoga

1. Stretch from your tail to your toes

When cats stretch out they extend into their paws opening their toes and drawing their claws, they roll their shoulder blades back, take a big yawn, extend all the way down their spine, right to tip of their tail. Their hair even stands up!

Next time you’re in a pose such as Warrior 2, think like a cat. Extend from fingertip to fingertip. Open the front of the chest…Notice what your little toes are doing…lift the arches of your feet. Draw your tail (…bone) down. Stand tall, breath and enjoy it.

2. Take up space

Cats take up as much space as they need to get comfortable or stretch, even if it means pushing you off a chair…

Take up all the space you can in your postures. Be confident and focused like a cat.

At the start of class during centering, don’t close in, rounding your back and gripping onto you ankles. Instead, relax the shoulders back, rest your hands on your thighs, close the eyes and enjoy the space you’re creating and are about to create physically, mentally and energetically.

In savasana, allow your arms to really flop out to the sides, roll the palms upwards, allow the tongue to flop in the mouth and the feet to fall to the sides.

Imagine you’re the only person in the room…or, like a cat, the only one that matters!

A photo of a cat stretching in a blog by Durga Yoga and Antenatal, Kildare

Don't be afraid to take up space when practising – just like a cat

3. Have a routine

Cats like everything to be in order and have a set routine from getting up in the morning early…very early… to patrolling their territory, to meal times.

Just like a cat, establish a routine for your practice, whether it’s your physical asana practice or meditation practice.

Go to that class every Tuesday night, even if you don’t feel like it. Establish a habit and you’ll feel so great you won’t be able to do without it.

4. Don’t worry what others think

People can come come to their first yoga class a little nervous, worried about whether they’ll be flexible enough, fit enough, able to stick their leg behind their head…

But in reality, most people find yoga when they’re in their 30s after having kids, sports injuries or tiring desk jobs, not after being a professional gymnast or dancer.

Even for those with a regular practice, it can be daunting to try out a new pose during class.

If any of these sounds familiar to you, be more cat. They don’t care what you or anybody else thinks of them.

Be present within yourself and do what’s right for you in class. Imagine how you’ll be purring inside after beginning a yoga practice or achieving that pose you’ve been working on.

5. Balance like a cat…and don’t worry if you fall over

Cats have incredible balance. I often watch my nimble black cat Rufus walk along our fence on a windy day and wonder how he stays upright. He’s as light as a feather.

Even so, my other cat is unusually big – 8 kilos and the size of a Beagle…But again, she can balance on anything.

You can see when they’re balancing on that thin fence that they’re focused and calm, they engage the right muscles and when they wobble, their muscles adapt.

Sometimes they fall off, but while they’re falling, their body reacts instinctively to protect them and they always get back up.

Whether it’s a tricky standing balance on one leg such as Warrior 3, or an arm balance like Bakasana, set up is vital. Engage your core, your bandhas and steady your breath.

Allow your muscles to shift to support your body weight. And if you wobble, don’t worry, everyone in the room is!

Find fun in balance and if you fall over, dust yourself off and get back up again. Soon you’ll be balancing just like a cat.

 

A Siamese kitten stretching in a blog about cats and yoga by Durga Yoga and Antenatal, Kildare

Cats – the ultimate yoga gurus!

6. If you are stuck, cry for help

Cats are notorious for getting stuck up trees and when they do, you’ll hear all about it! But, the important thing is, they tried to climb that tree.

As a teacher, I can firmly say that there is nothing more enjoyable or satisfying than helping a student work on a pose.

You can feel the excitement with every breakthrough, as you can really empathize with how amazing it feels to finally get closer to that pose – to stay in that arm balance for a bit longer, lift up into wheel or go a bit deeper into that forward bend.

So, if you’re working on something, holler for help. Your teacher will love it!

7. Be a copycat

Cats are great observational learners, hence the phrase ‘copycat’. They will watch each other do things and learn by copying.

If you’re working on a pose, look at what others are doing. Ask whoever is beside you in class how they got there. Ask your teacher to come to your mat and show you.

Watch videos online, look at pictures, dream about that pose and eventually you’ll get there.

But if you don’t, that's ok, a cat wouldn’t care and neither should you. Yoga is about the journey and joy of practicing, not the destination.

8. Savasana like a cat

Cats sleep for 16 hours a day. It’s the most important part of their personal practice. And it should be yours too.

Savasana or corpse pose at the end of practice is a time for complete serenity and relaxation. While this sounds easy, it can be difficult to completely switch off. The inner voice can chatter away or you can get an itch or be a bit cold…

Like a cat, find the comfiest state before savasana. Wrap up if you need to. Use furry socks or a bolster under the legs if that feels good for your back.

Once your eyes are closed, soften your muscles and your breath.

Imagine a purring cat. Allow yourself to drift away, knowing that when you wake up, everything will be new and reborn.

16 hours of savasana is optional ;  )