1. Sydney’s first ever cat cafe, Catmosphere, hosts Cat Yoga sessions every Thursday. They involve 45 minutes of yoga in a room that’s home to up to 20 cats, followed by 15 minutes of “kitty cuddle time”.
Owner Thomas Derricott affectionately refers to his adoptable rescue cats as “catsronauts”, corresponding with Catmosphere’s outer-space/sci-fi theme. They are named things like Obi Wan Catobi, Darth Beauty, and Fuzz Aldrin.
“The primary reason we opened this place was basically pun goals,” he says. “But people really love the yoga.”
2. The classes are conducted in a small room above the cafe. The walls are lined with cat beds and feline-friendly cubby holes.
3. We tried it out, to see if cats really are ~calming~ at all.
4. Prior to class, we liked (or disliked) cats, and yoga, to varying degrees. This is how we felt about cats:
Brad: I have grown up with cats my whole life. At most we had four. They’re nice and fun to have but I have also had not-nice cats that didn’t take kindly to me, probably because some of our cats were adopted strays. I hope all of these cats are nice.
Michelle: Look cats are OK. I’m not one to necessarily hate any animal (besides spiders of course) but cats are just so temperamental. I am team dog all the way. They love you unconditionally. Cats? Not so much.
Hannah: I like a very specific kind of cat - those chubby, fluffy, grey ones. Other than those, I find cats to be an inoffensive animal, for the most part, unless they scratch. Then they are mean. I am wary of mean-looking cats.
5. And this is how we felt about yoga:
Brad: I try to do yoga once a week. I think it’s important to stretch often. I play football so I try to use yoga as a way of strengthening my core and minimising injury.
Michelle: I literally haven’t done a yoga class in 10 years. They’re not really my thing. I’m not very patient and the silence of it all weirds me out, but I’ll do a class if it presents itself to me.
Hannah: Yoga is basically the one form of “physical activity” that I like, since I’m pretty hopeless at cardio and weights. I try to go to a heated, hour-and-a-half class twice a week.
6. So what is the point of cat yoga? Clinical psychologist and yoga teacher Monica Schweickle told BuzzFeed that it, “combines animal assisted therapy with the moving meditation of yoga, potentially offering participants the benefits of both.”
“There is a growing body of research that indicates that animal assisted therapy can reduce depression, loneliness and anxiety,” Schweickle says. “The human stress response can be managed through touch. Patting an animal can provide sensory stress relief.”
“Similarly, an increasing field of psychology research shows the mental health benefits of yoga. Specific yoga and meditation practices can improve sleep and reduce stress. Combining animals and yoga is like a double infusion of joy!”
7. Well-known yoga poses such as “cat pose” and “downward dog” emulate animals, which Schweickle says is meant to remind us of our connectedness to all living things, and put our existence into perspective.
“Cat Yoga embraces the compassionate aspects of yogic teachings, as participants have the opportunity to adopt one of the rescue cats at the end of the class. In yogic teachings, our own wellbeing is tied up with the wellbeing of everything on earth,” she says.
“The complementary practices of connecting with other animals, and connecting with ourselves during yoga, is a soothing tonic for the human condition, and beneficial for the kitties too.”
8. We had very different expectations of cat yoga.
Brad: I want cats everywhere. I have done yoga at home before and I know that my cats are particularly fond of brushing up against you while you do downward dog, so we’ll see.
Calmness level before class (out of five):
Michelle: I expect to get very distracted and I’ll probably spend a good chunk of the class focusing on the cats rather than focusing on the yoga. I’m also fearful of cats getting squished. That is my fear, the cats “roaming free” to somewhere they just should not be.
Hannah: I’m a little hesitant about how many cats there will be. 10? 20? I’m getting potential crazy cat vibes, and I like yoga to be a non-crazy part of my life. Also, I’m pretty allergy prone. I don’t know how healthy this will feel for me.
10. This is how we felt after class:
Brad: I would definitely go again. The only reason I wouldn’t is because I’m afraid I’ll adopt Darth Beauty, because he looks so much like my old cat. The cats are kind of distracting, but that doesn’t mean I wouldn’t do it as well as normal yoga. My calmness was a bit affected by Michelle losing her shit, but I definitely felt more calm than before.
Calmness level after class (out of five):
Michelle: I was still stressed after class. I didn’t think the cats would stress me out but they did. Having your eyes closed and furry balls come up and brush against you is not a calming feeling. I moved down a stress notch because I never really take an hour to just chill and relax and breathe so the yoga aspect helped a bit. I can handle a cat or maybe two, but fifteen?! Nah, that’s too much cat for me to handle. I just don’t think that either yoga or cats are my thing.
Hannah: The yoga itself was nice and slow, which is always relaxing, especially at the end of the working day. However, my zen level stayed the same, because (as predicted) my allergies did not take kindly to the cat hair that is everywhere in the room. The cats didn’t bother me so much, but the itching feeling that overcame my eyes did. I don’t think I’ll be back, but I can totally see that this is a cat-lovers haven. There were also some of my favourite fluffy grey cats! That was nice.