4 Things I Learned From Doing Down Dog at Cat Yoga

Yep, cat yoga is a thing now. A furry, fabulous, focus-less thing.

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So I'm a cat person — and, no, not the cool kind. (Is there such a thing?) Case in point: When a feline crosses my path (stray, domestic, I'll snuggle 'em all), I've been known to instantly drop to the floor, where I proceed to literally catcall until said kitty deigns, at long last, to acknowledge me. I do this even though I know a snub is probable, a scratch is possible, and the very best I can hope for is a fleeting, furry head-bump of approval.

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I'm also a yoga person, or an aspiring yoga person, anyway. I don't practice nearly as much as I would like to; I can't even comfortably touch my toes. But I think when you've got om in your bones — and I do — that finding your center is like riding a bicycle.

Well, let me amend that: Finding your center is like riding a bicycle, unless you're trying to get your flow on in a cat yoga class, like the one I recently attended at New York City's popular Meow Parlour cat café.

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Cat yoga is exactly what it sounds like: a yoga class conducted in a room full of cats. Needless to say I found it pretty difficult to focus on my breathing when a real, live kitten made a beeline straight. Toward. My. Mat. Prrrr, indeed.

If cats did yoga, they wouldn't waste time comparing themselves to thinner, more flexible cats.

Despite my inability to focus, I'd say cat yoga was a valuable experience. Cats, it turns out, are excellent yoga practitioners. We could all stand to learn a few tricks from them. Here are four things I took away from the class. (The one takeaway I really wanted — a teeny meowing ball of fluff stuffed in my purse — wasn't available… not for lack of trying.)

1. Move at your own pace.

Someone's swishing a feather toy at warp speed? Cats hang back until they feel ready to pounce. Yoga sequence moving too quickly for you? Pause for a moment, and pick up at a pose and pace that feels right for you. And never be embarrassed to drop down into Child's Pose when things get intense. It's basically the invigorating catnap of yoga practice.

2. Really sink into the stretch.

Have you ever seen a cat unfurl after a nap? Claws wide, back arched, butt allll the way up to the sky? That's what a good stretch feels like. Everything is unfurling and expanding, and every part of you is engaged, from the crown of your head to the tip of your tail (uh, toes).

3. Stop worrying about what you look like.

If cats were worried about looking stupid, they wouldn't cram themselves into boxes, buckets, drawers and other small spaces all the time. And if they did yoga, they certainly wouldn't waste time comparing themselves to thinner, more flexible cats, or anxiously hoisting up their leggings in fear of an accidental plumber's crack incident. Nobody's looking at your Pigeon Pose. Nobody's looking at your butt. Relax. Breathe. Purr.

4. Remember, this is YOUR time. Own it.

Cats have never even once considered that a moment of their time might belong to anyone but themselves. You might not share that special feline gift for selfishness, but if there's ever a time to focus completely on you and your needs, it's yoga class. Breathe in deep; when you breathe out, chant it with me now: Me. Me. Me… ow.

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