Kitty Yoga Provides Mental Health Benefits With a Side of Cute

Kitty yoga classes have gone viral on social media, but the benefits go beyond likes and shares. Sharing a mat with cats can give even the most experienced yogis an elevated calm feeling.

When a person walks through the door of a kitty yoga class, it doesn’t look or sound like a calm environment. Kittens scamper around the room and people abandon their yoga mats for a chance to hold the shelter cats. The adorable, adoptable guests continue to cause a racket during class.
Though it may look distracting at first glance, yogis like Becca Parker experience positive differences from other types of traditional yoga.

“Cat yoga…it’s just a whole new level of calming and, like, fun on top of it,” she said after completing her first kitty yoga class.

Science backs up Parker’s calm feeling. The physiological effect on participants is similar to holding someone’s hand.

“The same thing can come from having an animal sitting in your lap or having contact with another living being,” said Dr. Janet Frick, Associate Professor of Psychology at the University of Georgia. “It can bring about physiological responses.”

All types of animal-accompanied yoga come with senses of calm and connection, but there are physiological responses unique to kitty yoga.

“When you go ‘ommmm,’ your body starts to vibrate. It starts to calm you down,” said kitty yoga instructor Brittany Barnes. “It’s the exact same vibration that the cat’s purr does.”

Barnes’s calming experience with her own cat inspired her to create a kitty yoga class with Circle of Friends Animal Society more than a year and half ago.

“I was laying in bed one night and I was feeling really anxious and stressed. My cat got on my chest and she started to purr. And like instantly I started to feel calm,” said Barnes.

The Circle of Friends Animal Society hosts kitty yoga every Tuesday at Athens Memorial Park from 6:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. They ask attendees for a $5 donation to participate. Some or all of the kittens at the classes are up for adoption.

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