When one animal lover and yogi was looking for new ways to engage the community, she found that cat yoga—yes, it’s a thing—was the ticket when it came to bringing healthy vibes and new people into the feline fold.
Catalina Esteves has been practicing yoga for years as therapy for her scoliosis. One day she noticed how much her two pet cats at home loved it when she did her yoga exercises and decided to combine her passion for yoga and her love of cats by offering a cat yoga class at her cafe. And cats in her cafe, is totally on the menu, since Esteves is also the owner of Cat Therapy, Santa Barbara, California’s first cat cafe.
In case you’re not familiar, cat cafes are places where you can go and relax with, play and pet cats while you consume delicious beverages and snacks. The cats are all rescue animals up for adoption. Catalina explained that the cafe is great because many feline fans can’t have cats at home because they have allergic family members or live in non-pet friendly spaces so this allows them time to commune with the their fluffy friends.
To visit the cafe, you book and pay for 75 minute increments with the cats, and then you can order specialty coffees, juice drinks and acai bowls to nibble on while you frolic with the felines.
Cat yoga = no downward dogs?
Cat Yoga happens twice a week, Wednesday night and Sunday morning, at the cafe. Space is limited to about 11 students, and you must be 15 years old to take the class. Yoga mats are provided for all. Catalina invites the students to “Enjoy 60 minutes of gentle yoga and deep stretching surrounded by playful kitties seeking forever homes. Expect a fun, light-hearted experience for all yoga levels followed by 30 minutes of cat cuddles.”
Catalina explains that cats really respond to the meditative energy of the yoga class. When the class begins, the cats start to come out and participate in their own way. Cats are natural yogis since they spend most of their time relaxing, posing, and stretching. Sometimes, the cats will use the humans as their mats, climbing on a lap or a back in the middle of an exercise. Students should wear workout clothes that they don’t mind getting fur on, and mats are provided because the cats occasionally love to dig their claws into the mat.
The three current cat yoga instructors Cristy Candler (Yoga teacher for Barcara Resort, Salt Cave) Adam Perot (teacher at SB Athletic club, Corepower) and Aneta Jensen (Yasa Yoga) are some of the most experienced, renowned yoga teachers in Santa Barbara. The fancy pedigree of the instructors guarantees a great class in addition to the fun of doing the class… with a cat by your side. All the instructors feel a tad self conscious about calling for the “downward dog” pose, but they balance it out by incorporating as much “cat pose” as possible.
Cat Yoga is starting to catch on around the world. The Cat Cafe in Sydney, Australia hosted a day of Yoga with kittens and NPR recently featured a story reporting that, animal shelters in Illinois, Louisiana, Michigan, New York, Texas and other states across the country ”are partnering with yoga studios to raise money and increase adoptions.”
According to a recent CNN story about the cat yoga class at the Good Mews cat shelter in Marietta, an Atlanta suburb, Yoga classes with kitten companions have popped up on New York’s Lower East Side, in San Francisco, even in Des Moines and in Mobile, Alabama. The cats become more sociable during the yoga class which increases their chance of adoption.
Catalina Esteves uses the Eckhart Tolle quote on her Cat Therapy website to sum up the cat yoga experience. Tolle wrote, “I have lived with many Zen masters—all of them cats.” So, if you’re not allergic and you’re looking for the purrrrfect yoga companion, then you may want to train with the Zen masters at a cat yoga studio near you.
You can follow Santa Barbara Cat Therapy on Instagram @cattherapysb