[An expanded and better-edited version of this piece is on Elephant Journal. You can view it here!]
To celebrate World Animal Day (4 Oct 2021), let’s talk about why I let my cats run wild when I teach and practise yoga. This piece was written prior to Helios joining our household.
So, many of you who have seen me live-stream a yoga class have seen all of my cats: four of them. There is Dusty, aged 20; Raven, aged 16; Ariel, aged one; and Luna, aged one also, but the youngest.
Some of you have been disturbed by Dusty’s sudden meowing. Being 20 years old, she’s like an elderly dementia senior; she sleeps deeply, and suddenly wakes up all confused, and expresses it through loud meowing. Her meowing is loud coz she’s partially deaf.
Meanwhile, others may have seen Ariel beg for my attention, or Luna bringing her toy for me to throw fetch with her.
So here’s why I try not to let them bug me. It’s related to yoga and spirituality, and it’s pretty important in yoga practice.
Yoga practice is a devotion
For me, my yoga practice is a moving meditation. And as with all my meditation practice, it is a form of devotion. Personally, I find it ironic if I practise devotion, but when someone or something comes to me with love, I shoo them away.
Of course, sometimes we do want to have time and space for ourselves to just connect. At those times, it would be my responsibility to put my cats away (but in a small apartment like mine, their endless meowing to get out of their enclosure may be worse than letting them frolic around while I practise).
If you are dealing with humans, such as a partner or your children, you can always advise them that you’d like some alone time.
But with animals, it’s a little harder. I used to practise with dogs, and dogs are far more intrusive than cats, because they climb on you, or splay between your feet, or lick you when you do a knee/chest/chin.
What I have found with animals is after some time, they realise you’re practising and they leave you alone. Some animals are more in tune with energy and they watch and observe and sometimes absorb. Raven is one of those types of animals, as she always gravitates to me during yoga practice, sitting meditation practice and reiki.
If you are patient with your animals, they will be patient with you, I feel. And that will enhance your practice.
We are all reflecting the universe
In yoga, we see all things as part of the universe and as extensions of the universe. So my cats are a reflection of the universe, as am I. If I am in a devotional practice, and extensions of me seek me out, it’s because of their need or desire for something.
As a devotee, it is practically my duty to give them at least a little bit of myself, even if not all that they want.
Our relationship with wisdom is receptive
It just so happened that the last class I did with Manoj Kaimal, founder and principal of Manasa Yoga, he said that in order for us to obtain wisdom, we need to be receptive.
If you think about it, this is true. When we were in school, we were meant to sit and absorb, and even now as adults, we learn by absorbing and being receptive.
So when your animal comes to you, maybe she has something to teach you. Maybe you have something to learn. Often when something bugs us, we’re quick to want to push it away or ignore it. But we can learn from these things. Admittedly, even I feel this way, and want to push what’s bugging me away.
But truth to tell, this is where yoga really comes in: all the teachings, philosophy, learnings all rolled up into one opportunity to learn.
The next time you get a disturbance during your yoga practice, whether at home or in the studio / school, look at the situation with as much equanimity as you can, and ask yourself a few questions:
- Why am I practising yoga?
- What can I learn from this disturbance?
- Is the disturbance speaking to me with love?
Do you let your cats or pets roam about while you practise or meditate? Tell me in your comments below!
Thank you so much for sharing this with me! It is beautifully written with wonderful observations!Jill Mellin-Humphris
Read how pets help calm you down: