Even though one of the basic poses is downward dog, cats are the stars of the class in these yoga events.
For the past two years, the Society for the Improvement of Conditions for Stray Animals in Kettering, Ohio, has been offering Yoga With Cats, featuring adoptable cats that appear to form partnerships with the participants during class. The nonprofit organization’s community-engagement team suggested the idea.
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“It’s good socialization for the cats, and it shows the variety of cats available for adoption,” said SICSA development coordinator Sam Lake. “It’s a really popular event; it fills up every month.”
Last year, Kettering SICSA facilitated the adoption of 1,654 animals. The numbers were fairly even for dogs and cats. The morning yoga class is scheduled for every third Saturday of the month. Matt Turner, a registered Dayton Yoga Club instructor, leads the classes.
“It’s my way of giving back to the community and sharing yoga with people,” said Turner, who has a home studio at the Dayton Yoga Club.
Turner is an animal lover who calls himself a cat person. He currently has two rescue cats, Sally and Frank. He lost a longtime buddy, Sammie, who died last November. He is a founding member of the Dayton Yoga Club, formed by regular members of Practice Yoga that was closed down in the Oregon District about a year and a half ago.
“The great thing about yoga with cats, it actually brings people to the class who might be hesitant to try yoga. They might think they don’t have the right body, or they’re too old, or not flexible enough,” Turner said. “They come for the cats, stay for the yoga, and come back for the yoga.”
Turner said cats love the texture of the yoga mats. For that reason, people are encouraged not to bring their best mats to class, as the cats might scratch them. The cats also tend to stay with certain people during the whole session.
“One time a person was in the downward dog pose, and a cat walked under her shirt and fell asleep,” said Turner, who is a nursing student at Sinclair and also works in the emergency room at Good Samaritan Hospital. “During kitten season, we had seven or eight kittens running around, climbing up on people and sitting on their shoulders.”
The cats are given treats and catnip, and provide extra stress relief for the participants. Class size is limited to 25, but Turner said they sometimes squeeze in a few more.
“It’s a great fundraiser; we take donations. It brings awareness to SICSA and the cats up for adoption,” Turner said. “We have lots of social-media outreach. We have a pretty large presence on Facebook and Instagram. By doing that, the adoptable cats get noticed.”
The organization also wants the younger animals to get noticed.
Lake said SICSA plans to start Knitting With Kittens on June 11. If it’s successful, then it will schedule more knitting events.
“I like working at SICSA, because my time and efforts are spent doing something positive for animals who can’t help themselves,” said Lake, a Dayton resident. “Hopefully, this will bring people to SICSA to adopt the great animals we have here.”
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Credit: Arvin Temkar
Credit: Georgia Department of Economic Development