They yowl. They attack ponytails. They scamper urgently across the room inpursuit of things we cannot see.

And yet, cats are a strangely relaxing presence during yoga class.

“Yoga is all about being in the moment,” and cats are in the moment “all thetime,” said Amy Apgar, one of two yoga instructors at Meow Parlour, a catshelter and cafe in Lower Manhattan that, like a growing number of placesacross the country, offers yoga classes with cats.

The yoga sessions are partly just for fun, but they also bring in new peoplewho may want to adopt a pet. (The cats on hand tend to be highly available.)

Other animal-inspired yoga classes include doga with dogs, yoga with goats andyoga with rabbits. But yoga with cats has gained a small but cultishfollowing.

Meow Parlour, which charges $6 for a half-hour admission to the cafe and $20to $22 for a yoga class, regularly fields requests from tourists who want toschedule a class during their visits to New York City.

At the Good Mews cat shelter in Marietta, Ga. — a 5,500-square-foot facilitywith about 100 cats at any given time — repeat visitors are common at themonthly yoga classes. “We have space for 15 people, and we just clear the cattrees and stuff out of the way,” said Nancy Riley, the volunteer marketingcoordinator for the shelter. “Instantly, the cats are there on the mats.”

At least 40 cats will wander through the yoga class, Ms. Riley said, whileothers will sit on perches and observe. “Sometimes one will choose aparticular person and will stay with them throughout the whole class,” shesaid. “And some are social butterflies who meet with all the differentstudents.”

During the savasana, or final resting pose of a yoga class, “usually at leasthalf the people will have a cat asleep on their chest — it’s just the sweetestthing,” Ms. Riley said.

For Megan O’Boyle, a 30-year-old social worker who moved from her nativeWisconsin to New York for graduate school, cat yoga is just one way to spendtime with animals, something she misses from home. Living in the city with aroommate, “I need animal time,” she said. “I go to the dog park sometimes.”Ms. O’Boyle said she grew up with cats and occasionally practices yoga. Aftera recent class at Meow Parlour, she said, “It was easy to do, and it was funto have the cats all around.”

Her roommate, Anna Ginzburg, who is 28 and works in finance, took the class,too. Although the dozen or so cats weren’t particularly cuddly on the nightshe went (with cat yoga, you take your chances), one of them, a 20-poundernamed Freddie Mercury, did make his presence known by repeatedly drowning outthe teacher with his meows. The instructor occasionally had to stifle agiggle.

“It’s a big stress reliever,” Ms. Ginzburg said. “I want to keep coming back.”

Yoga participants are warned against bringing their own mats, which are likelyto see some claw-induced damage.

“None of the classes are ever the same,” said Emilie Legrand, a co-owner ofMeow Parlour and an affiliated bakery, Macaron Parlour, both on the Lower EastSide. “It depends on the group of cats and the time of day.” Afternoon classestend to be more laid back, she said, because the cats are sleepy and justobserve, while at the evening classes, when the cats are anticipating supper,they tend to be more frolicsome.

At KitTea Cat Café in San Francisco, the Cats on Mats class happens everyWednesday night and costs $30 a person. There are typically at least a dozencats, but room for only eight yogis.

“Our yoga instructors always incorporate the silliness and unpredictability ofthe cats themselves,” said Courtney Hatt, 31, who ditched a job in high-techto start up KitTea, which serves teas, Belgian waffles, wraps and other fare.

“Like, sometimes a cat will be using the litter box.”

Similar cat cafes have sprouted across the country in the last two years orso, typically separating the animal playspace from the food area, for healthreasons.

The emphasis tends to be less on the food than on fostering good times forpeople in need of a cat fix. Cat participation in the yoga classes varieswidely.

“We’ve actually had kitties who have stretched with people,” said Ms. Hatt.“Probably unintentionally. But they do an excellent downward dog.”

Ms. Legrand, of Meow Parlour, said that the rotating cast of cats refreshesthe experience. “It’s fun when we have a few new cats, and you can tell it’stheir first yoga class, because they are very curious,” she said. “The yogamats are like cat magnets.”

Ingrid King, a cat blogger, practices reiki, a healing therapy that involvesthe transfer of energy from person to person or, in Ms. King’s case, person tocat. And while she herself is more of a Pilates person, she called yoga a goodfit for everything feline.

“Cats’ energy is such a wonderful and relaxing thing to be around,” Ms. Kingsaid. “I think it’s a perfect match to yoga.”
Source – _ JENNIFER A. KINGSON New York Times_

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