BY: Dena Harris
I have noticed that what cats most appreciate in a human being is not the ability to produce food which they take for granted, but his or her entertainment value.
I took up yoga two years ago, around the same time we got our cat. Having read that owning a cat and practicing yoga were both fail-safe methods to soothe troubled nerves, I envisioned a life filled with peace and inner reflection. Now two years wiser, I know that people who own cats do yoga simply to release the stress in their lives that exists because they own a cat.
My cat mocks me while I do yoga. As I sit on my padded blue mat, tangled up in a pose the human body, or at least my body, was not meant to perform, she'll sit beside me and perform the same pose flawlessly.
"Now, raise your right leg, keeping your left leg fully extended," coos my video yoga instructor. "Balance on your sitting bones, and raise the leg over your head."
Puffing and grunting, I try to extend my leg. Without breaking a sweat, the cat plops herself down beside me and raises her right leg over her head, making sure her back leg remains fully extended. I look over at her. She looks back and, pointedly, bends down and licks herself, without lowering the leg.
I find this insulting.
I decide I need more personalized instruction, and sign up at our local Y, paying $75 to have a certified yoga instructor twist me into painful and humiliating poses. But the cat is not there, executing a better version of "Downward Facing Dog" than me, so it's bearable.
"You're doing very well," says my instructor.
"Thank you," I say. "I'm trying to impress my cat." The instructor backs away, and avoids me for the rest of the class. But I don't mind. I am raising and extending my legs at an advanced rate. I can't wait to show the cat.
I return home and pull out my mat. The cat looks pleased. It's been a few days since she's humiliated me.
"Ha! That's only what you think is going to happen," I say. "Watch this!" I proceed to execute a flawless "Dead Bug" pose. The cat looks amused.
"That's not all," I say. "I can also do this!" I move into Downward Facing Dog, remembering to breathe, as my instructor said.
The cat ambles over, takes a seat next to my head, and stares at me. My arms begin to tremble, but I refuse to give up the pose. The cat continues to stare, glancing significantly at my now shaking torso. I am no longer breathing properly. In fact, I think I am close to hyperventilating. The cat begins to purr.
I can't go any further. I collapse onto the mat. I'm pretty sure I've strained something. I can't locate exactly where at the moment, because my entire body is trembling.
Now that I'm on the floor, the cat yawns and stretches, fully extending her front legs and arching her back. She holds the pose. And holds it. And holds it. And darn it all, she's breathing. Releasing the pose, she takes a deep cleansing breath. Her final word on the subject is to claw at my yoga mat before exiting the room.
The phone rings. It's my yoga instructor.
"I was wondering if you wanted to sign up for our next series of classes," she said. "You were making such good progress."
I think about the physical anguish and sweat of the yoga class. Then I ponder the money spent to experience this pain. I tell the instructor I will not be returning to class. If it's pain I'm after, I can get that at home for free.
I'll just do yoga with my cat.