Cat yoga? What’s that?
It’s as simple as it sounds: People doing yoga in a room that contains cats.
So the cats don’t do yoga?
Nope. The cats do whatever they want. They’re cats. (But in my opinion, they’re awfully yogic creatures. They don’t need my help. I need theirs. Speaking of …)
A few reasons. First, I’m a cat lady, and I’m not shy about it. Remember actress Cara Hartmann’s fake eHarmony profile video from a few years back? (If not, watch it here.) Yeah, OK. I’m not quite as intense as her character, but I really love cats. They make life better. They’re zen little creatures, seriously. One of my cats likes to sit in my lap and purr when I meditate, and she helps keep me centered.
But no, they’re not the best at the physical aspect of yoga. You’ll catch them in a pose now and then (especially savasana), but my cats usually like to play, rub my ankles and bat at my hair during my home practice.
It makes me laugh, and I want to share that experience with others. So, cat yoga it is!
I could write a book about that. (I kind of have.) But in short: Yoga helps me slow my mind, calm my breath and take each moment one at a time.
What happens to the money?
I’ve built the Greater Birmingham Humane Society’s cat yoga program in such a way that the teacher gets paid a stipend and the organization keeps the rest.I want teachers to have the option of being paid because we’re often asked to work for free.
You can learn about the programs your money would fund at gbhs.org.
So long as I teach this program, I will decline payment. That means GBHS receives 100 percent of the money from the public classes I teach in its facility.
OK, I’m convinced. How much is it?
Classes are $15 each.
Join us the third Sunday of each month from noon to 1 p.m. (ish) at the Greater Birmingham Humane Society. That’s 300 Snow Drive, Birmingham, AL 35209.
How do I sign up?
Visit the GBHS website. If the date isn’t posted, registration hasn’t opened. We expect most classes to sell out, so register in advance. Space is limited.
How do I know when registration is open?
I’ll notify people on my mailing list as soon as I’m aware it’s up. Sign up here.
What should I wear?
Comfortable clothes you can move in. They don’t have to be “yoga clothes.” The most important thing is you’re comfortable and your shirt won’t flip up and show everything when you move into downward facing cat.
What will take place?
Join me and the felines in the GBHS conference room. The number of cats will vary class to class; GBHS selects them from one of its colonies, and the staff takes into consideration the cats’ moods that day. Eight cats joined my birthday party. Six visited the first public class.
I’ll start by explaining the rules of cat yoga. No. 1: Let the cats come to you. No. 2: If you’d rather play with cats than move through the poses, cool! Play with the cats. (You’ll catch me doing the same.)
The class itself lasts one hour. We’ll start slowly, with breath work and gentle stretches, and move into a more active practice. The style I teach is called core strength vinyasa, and it emphasizes softening before moving into a pose. That helps us experience our full range of movement. I don’t get as much into the details as I would in a typical class–you can join me for those some other time. But I remain true to this teaching. It’s a physically challenging practice, but I offer lots of stopping points along the way.
Challenging? Does that mean I shouldn’t come if I’ve never done yoga?
Nope! I’ll coach you in making smart choices for your body on this day. I always say, if you’d like to spend the entire class in child’s pose, I think that’s a great option. That’s especially true in cat yoga, when you might have a feline friend to cuddle.
What’s in it for the cats?
Important question! GBHS uses this program as a way to help socialize the cats. They get to spend time with people in a free environment. It also introduces people to adoptable pets. At least one cat found her furrever home at our October class, and others found advocates who intended to lobby friends to adopt them.
Cat yoga? In Alabama? It’s a thing – and you can join me
OK crazy cat lady, I want to know more about you–and your cats.
I’ve been owned by cats all but maybe six months of my life. The first cat I remember, Rugrat, was so gentle he let my sister and I use him as a pillow. Our next family cat, Tuffy, was a pale ginger tabby. We adopted him when I was about 5, and he lived until I was in college.
I’m currently loved on and bossed around by a pair of ginger kitties, McCartney Jane and Harrison Vann. Mac is the best Christmas gift I’ve ever received, thanks to a former roommate. I was three days catless after my previous cat, Emma, died suddenly. I’d spent those days crying myself to sleep and insisting that no one should give me a kitten. Fortunately, Abi didn’t listen.
On Christmas Eve, 2009, an aunt mentioned that she knew someone with a male orange kitten up for adoption. I thought, “Hmm. Maybe if that cat’s still available when I’m ready, I could adopt him. What would I call such a cat? How about McCartney? Ooh, but what about a female ginger cat named McCartney?!”
I arrived home that afternoon, and Abi was at the end of the hall holding an orange kitten. “I got her for you, but if you’re not ready, she can be the house cat,” she said.
“Well, hello, McCartney.”
Although she’d been at Abi’s parents’ house for a couple of days, Mac knew we belonged together as soon as we met.
I thought I was a one-cat girl because Emma demanded all my attention and was unsure of other people. (She was a tortoiseshell. It’s the normal tortitude.) But years after Abi and her pets, another roommate moved out and took her cat with her. Mac was lonely. She begged for attention every time my new roommate and I came home. I tried to entertain her with toys and puzzles, but it wasn’t enough. That’s where Harry came in.
A new friend requested that I like the Facebook page of a rescue for which she volunteered. When she sent me the link to Have a Heart Animal Rescue and Adoption, Harry’s was the cover photo. I was done.
Mac didn’t like him at first (what cat likes a stranger cat at first meeting?), but they both slept in my bed that night. Now I often catch them cuddling and bathing each other. He’s a momma’s boy and she’s a momma’s girl (totally different things). He irritates her sometimes; at least once a day, Harry tries to wrestle and Mac hisses to remind him that it’s never, ever a good idea in her estimation. He’s a typical baby brother and a love muffin.
I want more Mac and Harry!
Of course you do. They’re the best. You can follow them on Instagram @beatlecats (although I don’t update that often). Look to the right for links to all of my social media; they make regular appearances.
"You and me chasing paper/ Getting nowhere/ On our way back home" —The Beatles, "Two of Us" Mom is working from home this morning, so the three of us are set up on the couch. We're napping in a show of appreciation for her hard work. Living the life! #catsofbham #catsofinstagram #harryssofetch #maccabee #gingerkitties
Why don’t you adopt more cats?
I live in a small house, about 750 square feet, with a roommate. Until I have space for another litter box, two cats is my limit.
And how did this get started, again?
I asked for birthday party ideas and my friend June suggested cat yoga. You can find the complete story here.
Got more cat yoga questions? Post ’em in the comments.