When Does Movement Become Yoga?
For Christmas, I’d like to take yoga classes I can zone out into my own peaceful state and not be compared to my fellow students. I want classes I take and teach to be filled with people of all sizes, those new to yoga and those who have practiced for years.
I want those yogis to be flexible and inflexible. I want Joe and Jane Doe to come in off the street because yoga is just as much for them as it is for me and you…
I want them to wear clothing from the Dollar Store instead of sporting matching water bottle, mat, hair band, top, and bottom sets from the various stores. I want to feel like yoga is truly for everyone, and not just for model-esque, elitist snobs who fill studios because they don’t have to work and because yoga is the cool thing to do…
In short: I want the true heart of yoga to shine so bright it feels like a sun-kissed summer day permanently lodged deep in the soul. Could you do that for me, or us, old guy. Could you? Hit me baby, just one time?
We can see this all around us in nature: the leaves are falling, the air is changing and we are harvesting an entirely new crop of fruits and vegetables.
It is important that we change with the seasons — just as nature does — by adapting our daily habits,food choices and yoga practice…Ironically, it is only through change that was can stay grounded during this shifting season.
In today’s world, we are always in motion, always exposed to the noise of information, to visual congestion, and to the media. Our instinct is to shut down and hide maybe even run away. It takes an enormous amount of “emotional maturity” to keep our options open rather than to submit to our instinct to flight or fight nature. Therefore, we never have time to be with ourselves or to relate to others and make excuses as I am too busy (overused words) which layered with cynical and egotistical attachments. Over-scheduled? Scared of downtime? Afraid of silence? Is busy-ness a choice? Is this why you are suffering? Sure, there are projects, appointments and plenty days with a full schedule, but how to approach those moments is entirely up to you. Begin with taking responsibility to stop what is stimulating the pain.
Yoga teaches us to slow down, to let go of the busyness, to rediscover how to feel, to tune into the body, to observe, to live mindfully and to silence to reconnect with our thoughts.
Have compassion for yourself and stop missing out on “your amazing life”!
We experienced the heartbeat of kirtan and devotional singing with Johanna Beekman and friends. Johanna’s unforgettable songs opened our hearts and inspired us on this yoga journey. I am so thankful to Olivia for asking me if I would be interested in bringing Johanna here to the the Midwest. Johanna Beekman Music is on a national tour, so check her schedule out at – www.johannasings.com
In my ten years of learning and teaching yoga, I’ve witnessed incredible growths in myself and people around me. It’s been a gateway I encourage all to enter and find more depth and companionship to themselves.
Yoga postures and shapes provide a physical shape suspended in time for you to witness what you think, feel, and focus on. Consider the positions, or asanas(traditionally called in the Sanskrit language) different shapes of meditation, each with the added benefit of releasing rigidity and creating space for a more brilliant body to escort your mind for the rest of your life.
Would you invite shelter cats into your yoga class to practice alongside your students? That’s just what teacher Connie Pease did at her Illinois yoga studio, Yoga at Connie’s. The event, which was in partnership with no-kill Homeward Bound Pet Shelter (HBPS), was organized this June in an attempt to promote Adopt-a-Cat Month—as well as get cats out of the HBPS shelter and into the environments of potential adoptees (in this case, a yoga studio). “It gives these cats exposure and shows their personality. I think people can envision these pets in their home easier because they’re outside the shelter,” HBPS recently told The DoDo. Since pet yoga is on the rise (DoGa being one example, along with the multitude of videos featuring yogis and their pets that have gone viral), a move like this doesn’t seem like such a bad idea either.
“It gives these cats exposure and shows their personality. I think people can envision these pets in their home easier because they’re outside the shelter,” HBPS recently told The DoDo.
Personally, walking into a room full of cats would be a dream come true for me. Yoga or no yoga, my motto is “more cats, please!” Taking care of myself (thanks, yoga) combined with the additional bonus of helping others (like these little fuzzballs) sounds even better. Naturally, I was curious to know more.
Check out the conversation I had with this innovative studio owner, which features highlights from the event itself, why Pease thinks cats are natural “yogi-masters,” tips for yogis who’d like to get involved, and so much more.
How’d you come up with the amazing idea to welcome shelter cats into your studio?
Actually the idea came from one of my yoga students, Jeanette. She volunteers at the HBPS and after a Thursday night class, she approached me about it and coordinated the event with the shelter. Since this was Adopt-a-Cat Month, I thought it would be a great way to give back to the community and have some interaction with my favorite animals (which happen to be cats!). We only had one week to prepare. The studio was responsible for organizing the students, contacting the local newspaper (Herald & Review), and gathering donations—as well as organizing a social hour afterward where we could talk about the experience. Jeanette was responsible for the kitties, social media, taking photos, and video. And we got some great footage!
I didn’t even know Adopt-a-Cat Month was a thing, so I’ve certainly learned a lot! What outcome did the event have?
My students came together and raised $500 for HBPS. However, unfortunately, there were no adoptions (even though that’s one of the biggest reasons we held the event). But I feel encouraged to host again, and I’ve also been contacted by other yoga studios who heard about the event and are now interested in hosting one like it! In that respect, it was a huge success!
It would be great to see more studios host shelter cats! What advice would you offer them to get started?
Contact your local pet shelter and see if they’d be open to it. Next step? Get the word out. I contacted students with a personal invitation (but only the students I knew loved cats) and advertised on social media. The volunteers from Homeward Bound Pet Shelter were also there, in studio, and that gave the event a lot of credibility. And remember, this is not only a great way to help animals, but also an opportunity to give back to the community. People are generally looking for ways to share their kindness and this gives them a really fun and creative way to help others (and, in this case, cats!).
How many cats were involved? How did they react? Also, what response did your students have after the class was over?
We had six cats in the studio. Three of them were very active in the practice and the others just watched. Breezy, a black and white female, had a bubbly personality and she was definitely the star. She interacted with just about everyone. She’d walk by asking to be pet and she’d lay on the mat, under their downdogs, relaxed and happy. She brought so much life to the practice. Everyone loved interacting with the cats, too. We stopped often during the practice to hold our new furry friends. It felt really natural having them in the studio. Cats are natural yogi-masters!
Breezy, a black and white female, had a bubbly personality and she was definitely the star.
So true. I’ve had the same feeling, and particularly because I also have a cat-friend who loves to “practice” yoga with me. Whenever I unroll my mat, he suddenly appears. (Though most of the time he just sits, watches, and sometimes falls asleep.) What’s your take on their yogi-powers?
For one, they’re always stretching! They stretch their torsos, extend their legs, pull their upper bodies up, or twist their bodies to achieve a level of precision that many people like us can’t. And their purr!? Cats do diaphragmatic breathing without even thinking about it, and they do it so well. They’re also so mindful and focused. They’re practically always concentrating on something or other and holding it deeply within their awareness. They’re always glancing out the window at a bird or a flower. They seem to be able to hear and see every little sight, every little sound. Really, I think we could learn a lot from them about presence and nonattachment. Cat’s don’t need our approval; they’re just themselves. They just are.
And what about your purr-sonal practice? Do you have animal friends at home you yoga with?
Yes! I have Maggie (my dog) and Midnight (my cat), and when I am out on the deck, we all practice yoga together. (Both were featured in our Adopt-a-Cat promo video, in fact.) It’s a nice way to bond. Maggie lays next to the mat, waiting for a hug, and Midnight is on the mat, always jumping on me, walking down my back, and kissing me while I’m in cobra pose. Ever since the event, I’ve thought about how sweet our shelter cats were. If I could have brought each and every one of them home with me, I would have. They’re amazing animals.
The locals in Decatur, Illinois came up with an idea to combine a no-kill pet shelter with a yoga studio to host a class featuring adoptable adult cats. The results were wonderful and loads of fun!
The locals in Decatur, Illinois came up with an innovative idea to combine a no-kill pet shelter, Homeward Bound, and a yoga studio called Yoga at Connie’s, to host a class featuring adoptable adult cats. The results were wonderful and loads of fun!
From one cat yoga class, participants raised more than $500 for the shelter. This money will go toward helping the other kitties who couldn’t join in class that day. But in addition, one of the class cats was adopted and now has a new home.
Often times potential pet owners favor adopting kittens over adult cats, but when meeting the adults in yoga class, people notice they’re generally “calmer, more easy-going personalities.” AND additionally the fun part is they make ideal yoga companions.
The mission of Homeward Bound Pet Shelter is to shelter and rehabilitate relinquished cats, kittens, dogs, and puppies until they can be permanently adopted into loving homes.
Homeward Bound Pet Shelter maintains a stress-free environment for their cats and dogs while they wait for their new families. Cats are free to roam in their rooms, and dogs have visiting rooms and a fenced outside play area.
All animals are spayed/neutered, kept up-to-date on vaccines, and microchipped. Plus, they’ve been tested for heartworms or feline leukemia/FIV and kept on monthly flea control and heartworm protection.
Yoga at Connies‘ mission is to create a safe, calming space in which to practice a yoga series that inspires, relaxes and energizes.
Yoga at Connie’s is dedicated to helping you foster conditions of optimal health in your body. They are committed practitioners of Yoga with a focus that extends beyond the level of simply exercise or relaxation. They explore movement as a pathway to greater ease and healing in the body. Their certified instructors guide with passion and knowledge and believe in learning for life. Yoga at Connie’s wants all to be healthier in body, mind, and spirit, and yoga can help bring some into this healthy state of balance.
Yoga At Connie’s
5242 Niantic Rd
Latham, IL 62543
Phone: (217) 620-3306