Raising awareness one pose at a time

Photo credit: Best Friends Animal Society. The yoga class at the NKLA Pet Adoption Center was designed to create a fun atmosphere for felines to enjoy while also increasing their chances for adoption.

Los Angeles has long been one of the country’s top places for yoga buffs, but here’s a secret: You don’t have to get on the waiting list of a renowned L.A. yoga studio to take a class with the best teachers in town. In fact, you’ll find many of them at the NKLA Pet Adoption Center.

Of course, when you arrive at the center, the teachers will be hard to recognize. These masters don’t wear “om” necklaces. They have no idea what chakras are and couldn’t care less about downward-facing dogs (or most dogs, for that matter). And they don’t wear fancy yoga pants. They don’t wear pants at all.

You see, these are feline yoga masters — the most advanced and enlightened of all yoga teachers because they’ve been practicing balance, flexibility and poise since the day they were born. Today, yoga enthusiasts are coming to the NKLA center to take classes with cats. And in the case of one yogi, to give a special cat a forever home.

Come for yoga, leave with a cat

When Colleen McGuckin showed up at a recent yoga class at the NKLA center, she was looking forward to working on her balance and flexibility alongside some four-legged yoga masters, but she also wanted to meet Jamie, a black cat whose photo she had seen on the NKLA website. Jamie had an adorable white stripe on her nose, and McGuckin couldn’t get it out of her mind — no matter how hard she meditated.

Jamie wasn’t in the yoga class that day, so after it was over, McGuckin rolled up her mat and walked through the adoption center to look for her. When McGuckin spotted a cat lounging by herself (clearly having a Zen moment), she saw the telltale stripe, and knew it was Jamie.

McGuckin picked up the little black cat, and with that, she’d made her decision. “She basically flopped right into my heart,” Colleen says. That yoga class turned out to be very good karma for Jamie, because that day she found her new home.

Photo credit: Best Friends Animal Society. An attendee at the Me-Om Yoga with Cats class at the NKLA Pet Adoption Center in West Los Angeles takes a moment to interact with an adoptable cat.
Photo credit: Best Friends Animal Society.
An attendee at the Me-Om Yoga with Cats class at the NKLA Pet Adoption Center in West Los Angeles takes a moment to interact with an adoptable cat.

Yoga classes with cats launched at the NKLA center last May. Since then, word about the classes has spread, and interest keeps building. On average, the center hosts two classes every month where yogis can practice with around seven feline Zen masters, who need no help putting their legs behind their heads.

Jane Jetabut, the NKLA events and outreach coordinator who organizes the yoga classes, says they’ve been a big help in raising awareness about NKLA, and about how critical cat adoptions are to help make Los Angeles a no-kill city.

“We started the classes at the beginning of kitten season,” Jetabut said. “We wanted to do something creative this summer to get people involved in helping us save our city’s homeless pets, especially cats.” Since L.A. is a town where health and wellness often take center stage, yoga classes with cats seemed like a great way to increase awareness about felines who need homes.

Word about the classes has spread organically, says Claudia Perrone, NKLA marketing specialist. So far, representatives from Livestrong and BuzzFeed have shown up to capture the scene, which usually consists of students practicing yoga poses on their mats while the cats get a little more creative.

“Some will sit on people’s chests; others like to stretch out on the mats,” Perrone said. “We also bring in toys and encourage everyone to play with the cats anytime during the class, or take pictures and share them on social media. It’s a win-win, because the cats get to enjoy the open space, socialize with people and hopefully get adopted.”

Cat says “Namaste” to adopter

Today, Jamie (now named Goon) is enjoying her new life with McGuckin and Bagel, the cat she adopted right before Goon. And Goon is proving that you don’t have to be a movie star to afford a private, live-in yoga instructor. Your cat will do just fine.

“Goon teaches me to live in the moment and to just breathe,” says McGuckin, who loves coming home after a long day at work and seeing Goon waiting for her. “She’s helping me enjoy the simple things.”

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