Friday, December 9, 2016

Cat Yoga?

This should be a lesson to me:  Never ask what’s coming next?  

CNN featured this story on cat yoga, and they have the nerve to put it under the Health section of the website.  Now I have nothing against cats, and I certainly have nothing against yoga; but cat yoga is not about health, it’s just a gimmick.  But CNN hasn’t got a section called gimmicks on their website, although almost every news website these days probably ought to.  Such a section would give the so-called journalists more permission to bombard us, as they already do, with news from their professional investigation into what is trending on Facebook and other social sites.  They also get a chance to show how clever they can be with puns.  This is not news and cat yoga is not yoga.

The story tells that people receive on-line invitations to a cats-only animal shelter – this one in Marietta, GA – three times a month to do yoga as the shelter cats are allowed to wander around the floor.  They got the idea by watching cat videos on the Internet and thought it might be one more way to get people to visit the shelter and possibly adopt a cat.  (Can you say “Gimmick”?)

The excuse for having it on the health page comes later.  Studies show that yoga can improve your balance, your breathing, your sense of self and your overall health. It can reduce anxiety and fight off depression. It strengthens your core and can help ease chronic pain.”  The endorsement for cat yoga comes from the teacher who says she sees a difference in her students and believes, "Cat yoga is good for your soul."  This is clearly where we move from scientific research into the land of the airy-fairies.  There is no research on cat yoga as such.

It is true that yoga is beneficial.  But that applies to yoga, not cat yoga or dog yoga or beer yoga or suspension yoga or rock & roll yoga or paddleboard yoga or naked yoga or yoga on horseback – Honest, I didn’t make any of these up!

The benefits from yoga come from the opportunity to focus inward, to stretch safely in an accepting environment, to sync the breath with movement and to practice a little guided meditation.  Do these quotes from the cat yoga story sound anything like that? 

Cats love yoga mats and can't help but be the center of the action”
“If you've ever tried a hero's pose with your cat around, you know the challenge has nothing to do with your breathing or flexibility.”
“Cats may be distracting”
"There's not as much pressure to make my form perfect."

All these intentional distractions and need for reassurance from being judged by yourself or others sound nothing like traditional yoga, in fact, it’s quite the opposite.  So I’m not expecting studies of so-called cat yoga to show any benefits beyond what you might get just from hanging around with cats.  Of course if you are a cat person, cat yoga at the shelter is like being a grandparent: you can play with them, cuddle, and spoil them rotten, but you can also give them back when it’s time for the feeding, the litter box cleaning and the medicines.  Just stretching is optional – but it’s not yoga.

Just remind me from time to time not to ask, “What’s coming next?”

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