Kat reflects on how four months of trust building with her newly adopted cat has influenced her yoga practise.
Yoga off the mat
Most people think yoga is about what we practise on the mat but there’s a whole side to it that we can practise off it too. Taking responsibility for another being’s welfare is a big thing and can teach us so much about ourselves and our behaviours. I have learned to use this responsibility as a tool for self-reflection.
At the start of October, we set off to collect our beautiful, silver grey tabby cat, Aurora, from a rescue charity. She was petrified of anything that made a sound or moved. It was going to be a challenge to make her feel at home.
Within a day or two of arriving at her new home, Aurora slowly ventured out from under the bed. She then started to pad and purr manically. She was happy. She was starting to trust us.
For the first month, we had to move quietly and slowly to avoid breaking her trust. If we didn’t, she’d lash out as a warning or hide herself away. Aurora made me more mindful of my body and its movements. To me it highlighted when I was showing someone my irritating side. She taught me to slow down and reflect on how my behaviour affects others.
In the past, I have always had confident cats who act like they’re the boss. Aurora wasn’t like that. She needed comforting, security and encouragement. I realised she preferred being spoken to rather than touched. So we made a conscious effort every day to spend time talking to her, telling her she’s beautiful and brave. Eventually, she started to look at us differently and I could tell she was feeling safe. She knew we weren’t ever going to hurt her.
As the months went by, gaining Aurora’s trust filled my free time. I wanted her to have a proper home, a place where she knows she’s loved. Having a shy cat helped me to connect to a part of my yoga practise that can be easy to forget about. We can go through life day to day without giving ourselves time to reflect, observing what’s really going on around us. Seeing Aurora’s vulnerability made me feel compassionate. It was something I was exposed to every day and couldn’t avoid. Living with her meant that I could connect deeply to that feeling of connectedness and empathy that are a key part of the teachings of yoga. I was actively aware of her emotions and stress levels and absorbed them.
I had to consistently approach Aurora quietly, sitting a little away from her and waiting for her to accept my presence. It took time. There was nothing I could do apart from wait.
Having to act this way with Aurora saw me bring this into my own yoga practise. I had gotten into the habit of only doing a short practise in the morning and rushing around afterwards to get to work. Knowing that this rushing around unsettled Aurora, I noticed it unravelled all the good of my yoga practise too. My stress levels would increase almost instantly so I started to change my routine. After my practise, I would settle down with a cup of tea and a book instead of dashing around. I started to give myself an extra 10 minutes of ‘me’ time before the start of my day. Aurora had taught me that it was OK to take my time with things. It was OK to make self-love a priority.
By nature, I am a little impatient. I found waiting for Aurora to accept and trust me a huge test. I tend to have a defeatist attitude so my perseverance with her helped me find an inner strength when it came to hard life situations and harder yoga postures. I found that if I could wait for Aurora to love me, I could try and try again with the more difficult situations in my life and those tricky to achieve postures I sometimes avoid. Both would eventually happen. Sometimes the best things in life take time to happen.
Four months on
Aurora is like a different cat now. She is still hesitant but she asks for lap cuddles nearly every day. Every morning, she jumps on to the bed next to me for a cuddle before I get up.
At the time, not grabbing her and squeezing her made me struggle with showing her affection but the rewards for having that patience at the start are immense. We have given an abused cat a wonderful, secure and loving home. Her meows tell me she is thankful every day.