Each Tuesday during the summer, local folks of all ages can be found at Memorial Park doing as much or as little yoga as they’d like, all while surrounded by kittens and cats. The animals climb on and around people doing various yoga poses, interacting with them throughout the one-hour session. These adoptable creatures have been known to steal hearts and elicit laughter, all while encouraging people to exercise.
The Circle of Friends Animal Society works to rescue and care for animals of all kinds in the Athens community. Two years ago, the group began Kitty Yoga and found a home at Memorial Park. Once a week each summer in the park’s multipurpose room, cat foster parents from Circle of Friends bring their furry friends to yoga. A small donation is collected at the beginning, and everyone stretches and relaxes among yoga mats, kittens, toys and like-minded pet lovers.
Athens-based volunteer yoga instructor Brittany Barnes, a well-versed yogi and longtime cat lover, was thrilled to hear of the event. She enjoys seeing the joy that Kitty Yoga brings locals and is a very encouraging instructor, letting everyone of all experience levels take the program at their own pace. She says sometimes people just come to sit and play with the cats, and that’s great, too.
“My favorite part is that this is a very approachable yoga for people, and they have a lot of fun,” Barnes says.
Photo Credit: Savannah Cole
Not only does Kitty Yoga raise money and awareness for the foster cats of Athens, but it also does a lot to increase the animals’ social skills and give some peace to the yoga-goers.
Participation in Kitty Yoga has been steadily increasing, according to Tawny Waltz, one of the group’s cat coordinators. Last month, they had their largest class yet, with about 42 attendees.
“Getting our name out there and getting people to know what we do and get behind our mission is really great, and this has been a good outreach for that,” Waltz says.
The foster group pulls cats from all kinds of dangerous situations, especially high-kill shelters. It is also one of the only rescue groups that chooses to take cats that may be considered “less adoptable” or otherwise have special needs. Waltz stresses that any donation helps, as it only takes $1.50 to cover a vaccination for a cat.
As it turns out, the cat-yoga connection runs deeper than one might expect. In fact, that connection is elemental. “The sound of ‘om’ is a vibration that’s the same frequency as a cat’s purr,” explains Barnes.
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