When I first started my yoga practise more than a decade ago, home practise was a rarity.
I had three dogs at the time and they used to get excited and curious as to what I was doing. My yoga practise suffered from drool and stumbling on the mat.
With the recent Malaysian lockdown (Malaysian Movement Control Order), I found myself not only practising with my four cats, but conducting online classes with them underfoot.
With some reflection, I gladly have them with me. Here’s why:
Yoga is a devotion.
At least for me. Yoga, as well as my reiki, breath work, and meditation are forms of devotion for me. I was born and raised a Christian, and have a somewhat evolved belief of it, due to my exposure to yoga and reiki philosophy.
So when my mat rolls out, that is my “prayer time.”
Upon reflection, I decided that it’s ironic if my devotion was hindered by my own annoyance because my pets decide to share that time with me.
Admittedly, cats are far easier to handle than dogs (or even people). But if I were to view my practise as a devotion, then it is my responsibility to manage the circumstance with love and wisdom.
So if I choose to allow my animals to roam freely while I practise, that means I allow them to join my devotion with love. As they do.
My experience with my cats (and also my dogs) is they tend to calm down when you calm down. When you allow the magic of yoga to ground you, they get grounded too. They will leave you alone eventually, and sometimes even absorb the energy you dive into while practising.
If you are patient with your animals, they will be patient with you.
We are extensions of the universe.
In tantric philosophy of yoga, we learn that we are extensions or reflections of the universe. So, my cats are reflecting the universe as am I. And the universe experiences itself through us.
So, to put it simply, if I am in a devotional practise and an extension of me seeks me out, it surely arises from a need they have of me, or a desire they have for me.
And as a devotee, isn’t it my duty to give them at least a little bit of myself, especially if they come to me in love and trust?
We are embodiments of time.
An expansion of the idea that we are reflections of the universe is the idea that time embodies itself in us. Or put another way, we are time as revealed. This yoga idea helps to soften me whenever any of the four cats decides to bug my mat practise.
I have four cats: Dusty (20), Raven (16), Ariel (one year old), and Luna (also one, but the youngest).
Dusty is about 97 human years. She’s like an old dementia patient, who sleeps deeply, then wakes up all confused and meows the house down. Usually she’s hungry, but she just doesn’t know it.
Raven is about 81 human years. Out of the four, Raven really loves to watch me practise yoga and comes close when I self-reiki, so I can channel energy to her as well.
Ariel just loves attention and cuddles from me, while Luna wants me to throw her toy so she can fetch it.
Imagine that! I have four different stages of life surrounding me while I practise yoga on my mat. Time as revealed seeks me out for love in four different reactions of the universe. How amazing is that!
We have a relationship with wisdom.
Yes, we do. And our relationship with wisdom requires us to be open, yielding, and receptive.
Just a week or so of writing this, I attended a virtual class with Manoj Khaimal, founder and principal of Manasa Yoga, who told us that in order for us to obtain wisdom, we need to be receptive.
So when my pets come to me, maybe there is something I am supposed to learn or receive (as discussed here).
Often when something annoys me, I have been quick to want to push it away or ignore it. If I were to do that, I close myself off to the magic of yoga, because it is in those very circumstances when the real yoga comes in: all the teachings, philosophy, and practise rolled up into one opportunity to receive some learning.
Or, as in the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, upekshanam. Equanimity is one of the capacities we are meant to cultivate. This is a capacity with which we may attempt to accommodate opposing circumstances, such as peace and disturbance, without being affected by it.
Imagine sitting on your mat and counting your breath with one cat constantly nudging your left hand for a pat, and another on your right, bringing her toy for you to throw. If there is a more gentle introduction to cultivating this capacity, I cannot think of it.
When it comes down to it, yoga mat practise has opened up so many doors for me with my mind on the philosophy that comes with it.
The asana, or yoga poses, are fleeting. It’s what I can take beyond the mat that helps me to be a better person and caregiver.
To this end, my pets have been instrumental.