BRUNSWICK — Yoga is normally centered around mindfulness and focus.
But there were plenty of adorable distractions for the 18 students at Jai Yoga on Maine Street last Friday night, when 16 adoptable felines from Midcoast Humane purred and pounced their way through the studio’s first-ever Kitten Yoga class.
“I think what opens our hearts up to cats is that we love them the way they are and they love us as we are, and as we practice yoga it is an opportunity to love ourselves in that unconditional way,” Jai Yoga owner Jennifer Nadeau said as she opened the class.
Nadeau said she thinks cats and yoga are the perfect combination – despite the cute interruptions the kittens caused throughout the 90-minute session.
“Kittens inspire joy and kindness and acceptance in us human-folk,” she said. “These are qualities that we want to foster in our yoga practice. Having kittens present, that kindness and joy is immediate. Most of us need to heal our relationship with our bodies and with our minds. By bringing these qualities to our yoga practice we cultivate compassion not only for the kittens but also for ourselves and eventually, for each other.”
The Jan. 18 class served as a fundraiser for Midcoast Humane and was sold out within a week of its announcement, according to Nadeau.
During the class, students erupted in giggles when the kittens scampered throughout the studio. Some kittens nestled in blankets or explored other areas of the room.
“The giggles and squeals of delight were awesome,” Nadeau said. “I was touched at the instantaneous softening. With 16 adorable kittens pouncing around, we all dropped into the present moment immediately. No one was thinking about the past or the future. It was all right here, right now.”
Even some seasoned yoga students broke their poses just to get one-on-one cuddles with the furry felines.
Louise Rosen of Brunswick, a regular student at the studio, said she had never taken such a yoga class before.
Rosen, a self-described cat lover – who own two cats adopted from Midcoast Humane – had four kittens sharing her yoga mat throughout the class.
“At one point, I was mid pose and felt little feet running across me,” she said. “It had such a lighthearted feeling to it, this type of class was a total stress reliever after a long week.”
Another Kitten Yoga class is scheduled for Jan. 30 from 5:30 p.m.- 6:45 p.m. The $25 suggested donation goes straight to the shelter.
“People can make a donation to Midcoast Humane at any time, but with events like these, people can interact with the animals they’re helping to support,” Kadie Glynn, Midcoast Humane’s special event coordinator, said. “Every penny of what we take in from our classes goes right to helping animals and providing life-saving care for 3,500 annual residents at Midcoast Humane.”
According to Glynn, events like the Kitten Yoga class help the rescue animals find homes at a faster rate because they learn to socialize with people more easily.
“(It takes) animals out of the shelter environment to see how they interact with people and other animals,” she said. “Their personalities really come out when they are able to be out in the community. With more exposure to the outside world, they’ll more easily adapt to their new home environments.”
There is already a waiting list for next week’s class, where the kittens participating are celebrities of a sort: they will also be “players” in Midcoast Humane’s third Kitten Bowl, a live-streamed event on the shelter’s Facebook page on Super Bowl Sunday, Feb. 2, from 10-11 a.m.
Jane Siviski, Midcoast Humane marketing manager, said up to 20 kittens will be participating in the Kitten Bowl this year and all will be up for adoption when the shelter opens at noon that day.
During the one-hour event, two teams of kittens play their own version of “football” using catnip-filled toys.
The event is part of a national collaboration between the Hallmark Channel and the North Shore Animal League of America. The 20 shelters in the country that complete the most feline adoptions during Super Bowl weekend will receive grant awards from the two organizations.
Last year, Midcoast Humane placed 15th and received $600.
Louise Rosen of Brunswick, a regular at Jai Yoga studio on Maine Street, holds a pose accompanied by one of the 16 adoptable kittens that pounced their way through the studio’s first Kitten Yoga class on Jan. 18.
Buddy the Elf, an orange tabby kitten, relaxes on a mat while class goes on around him Jan. 18 at Jai Yoga in Brunswick.
Katie Surgis stretches with Buddy the Elf, one of 16 adoptable kittens who romped through Jai Yoga’s Kitten Yoga class Jan. 18 in Brunswick.