Guest Post By: Payal Bhandari M.D.
Yoga is all about discovery and self-awareness while reducing stress and anxiety. What better way to do this than with your feline friend?
Cats are wonderful companions, and according to studies their purring has a therapeutic effect on humans. For instance, the risk of heart attacks is 40% lower in cat owners. Their calming effect helps to lower your blood pressure.
It is a different and wonderful experience to de-stress, breathe, and move together. Here are a few yoga poses you can do with your cat that will bring you closer together and enable you to communicate deeper. While doing these poses, be mindful of your cat’s needs. Don’t stress if your companion doesn’t want to sit still with you. It will get easier over time.
1. Breath Awareness
Start off with a gentle breath awareness exercise. This exercise will quiet and calm your nervous system, reduce anxiety and stress, and improve self-awareness.
Lie on your back with your feet flat on the floor and the knees bent. Your feet should be hip-distance apart. Breathe comfortably while listening to your breath. Try to make your breathing as smooth and relaxed as possible with slight pauses between breathing in and out. Continue this for about 12 breaths.
Your cat is a natural at breath exercises, so listen to the breathing of your cat to guide you. Take these moments to let go of distractions and focus on your time together.
2. Warm Up
In a seated position, bring the soles of your feet together while enfolding your cat with your legs. Place your left hand on your right knee and your right hand behind your back. Look over your right shoulder behind you while keeping your shoulders down and your spine long. Repeat this on the other side. Next drop your chin towards your chest to release tension on your neck. For an added stretch you can interlace your hands behind your neck and let the weight of your arms give you a deeper stretch.
Let go of all tension and anxiety and focus on the calmness of your cat.
3. Warrior Pose
Stand with your legs 3 to 4 feet apart. Turn your right foot 90˚ out while turning your left foot slightly in. Bend your right knee 90˚ to come into a side lunge. Make sure your knee doesn’t extend over the ankle. Gaze over your right shoulder while holding your cat in your arms. Hold for a minute while feeling the strength you garner from each other. Repeat on the other side.
4. Downward Dog
Start on all fours with your hands directly under your shoulders and your knees under your hips. Walk your hands a few inches forward and spread your fingers. Slowly press your hips towards the ceiling until your body resembles an inverted V. Your feet should be hip-width apart and your knees slightly bent. Keep your shoulders away from your ears. Hold this pose for three breaths.
5. Child’s Pose
Sit comfortably on your heels. Roll your torso forward and bring your forehead to rest on the floor, while lowering your chest as closely to your knees as possible. Extend your arms in front of you while enveloping your cat in your hands. Hold this pose for a few moments while you relax together.
Practicing yoga with your cat will give you the opportunity to share time and relax with a being that you love. Over time, you’ll feel more relaxed, and you’ll see a deeper relationship developing between you and your little friend.
About the Author
Payal Bhandari M.D. is a holistic family physician at her practice, Advanced Health. She provides personalized, comprehensive primary care to families and individuals of all ages in San Francisco since 2005. Her integrative style blends the best in western and eastern medicine to effectively transform health.