pet parenting

Downward Facing Cat

Loosen up, relax and connect at Meowmaste

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Being a lowrider, I make friends easily with most cats—it just seems to come naturally. But such friendships never last nine lives. One kitten ran away to the next door neighbor’s; another fell in love with the canine across the street. It was a painful and humiliating experience—a lot like yoga, come to think of it.

So you’ll understand if I was a little leery of Meowmaste at first; a fundraiser hosted by the Jacksonville Humane Society to help humans find inner peace, and perhaps a new purry friend.

To me, it sounded like a catastrophe. Cats yowl. They skitter across the floor in capricious pursuit of things we cannot see. And if you’ve ever tried downward dog with a cat around, you know the challenge has nothing to do with flexibility and everything to do with keeping an errant tail from tickling your snout.

Much to my chagrin, it turned out to be a wag-worthy experience. Looking around the room, I couldn’t spot a single poo-faced yoga freak. Everyone was smiling, some were actually laughing. Maybe it was the catnip on the mats, but there was something about hanging out with these frisky felines that was strangely relaxing. With their peaceful ebb-and-flow and self-awareness, cats may be the original yoga masters.

While some refused to follow along for most of the poses–after all, cats will be cats—others surprised participants by taking cues to stretch out their limbs and exhale. Oommm. It turns out this ancient practice is good for them just as it’s good for humans.

And, sure, there were unexpected moments of tumult. Kittens batted toes of yogis deep in Warrior pose. Participants holding cats as they pretended to move through a sun salutation. You don’t go to cat yoga because your regular class was overbooked; you go because it’s a unique experience that benefits a good cause. Chances are you’ll leave the class with a renewed sense of calm and a boost of happiness.

For those in the market for a furry friend, cat yoga offers a chance to interact and play with adoptable cats outside of an animal shelter’s sometimes stressful and noisy environment. You’ll have a better feel for a prospective new pet’s real personality as you watch them pounce, climb and show affection during the class.

Besides the obvious Zen experienced by all species, the best part of the class is that donations go straight to the care of the cats and kittens. All classes are taught by Beth Jordan, a certified yoga instructor who volunteers her time to teach the classes every month.

Coincidentally, all the animals who attend the classes are from the JHS shelter, and it’s been known to happen: yogis adopt the little darlings on the spot. In fact, many foster kittens are already in happy homes.

Cat yoga is a craze benefiting both two-legged and four-legged devotees. It’s also perfect for folks who take regular yoga classes, and wish they were hanging out with cats instead. What cat person hasn’t felt that at least once?

Learn more about Meowmaste at jaxhumane.org.

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It took 11 pounds of willpower, but Davi managed to not chase any four-legged (aka feline) yogis at Meowmaste.

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