- Associated Press - Sunday, April 16, 2017

NEW CASTLE, Del. (AP) - Cats. They sleep all the time. They like to chill. There’s even a stretch named after them.

So, of course, these fabulous felines are a natural fit with yoga, right?

Not exactly.

“I expect they’ll be roaming around doing what they want to do and we’ll be invading their space,” says Sara Cardile, a registered yoga instructor in Newark.

On Tuesday, Cardile taught the first-ever Cats-N-Mats Yoga class at the Brandywine Valley SPCA in New Castle. As seven participants squared their hips and released their arms to the sky in Warrior Pose, a half dozen adoptable cats, with names like Hemingway and Mittens, scampered on mats and nuzzled at the yogis’ feet.

“Yoga and cats are my two favorite things,” says Cardile, 30, who owns a black cat named Gizmo.

When Cardile attempts her meditative practice at home, sitting cross-legged and breathing from the belly, Gizmo jumps on her lap. When she twists her body, he crawls into her armpit. During Downward Dog, Gizmo scoots under her.

The shelter hopes the class, which caters to people of all yoga levels, will bring in locals and introduce them to the benefits of adopting a furry friend. Participants were asked to make a $20 donation. Adoptable cats (over 6 months old) are available for $60 each. As of Wednesday afternoon, one yogi had expressed interest in adopting, a Brandywine Valley SPCA spokeswoman said.

The cat yoga craze has taken over humane societies and shelters from Birmingham, Alabama, to East Grand Rapids, Michigan. Philadelphia’s Le Cat Cafe has offered “Purrlates.”

There’s also dog yoga, bunny yoga, horseback yoga and yoga with goats chewing their cud between Sun Salutations.

The concept isn’t so far-fetched. Research shows that simply touching an animal elevates our body’s levels of the hormone oxytocin, which can stimulate healing.

Cuddling a cat on a mat supports mindfulness and focusing on the present, according to Brandywine Valley SPCA Executive Director Adam Lamb.

“The benefits of yoga and the benefits of spending time with a pet have a lot of similarities,” he said, such as “reducing stress, relieving tension and even lowering blood pressure.”


Information from: The News Journal of Wilmington, Del., https://www.delawareonline.com

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