Martha was my Savasana Kitty. This beautiful stray, who in 1996 sat on my back porch and cried until I let her into my house and into my heart – much to the dismay of Dora, my other cat. Martha’s striking gold eyes were offset by her long, dark sable-colored fur. Although shy and sweet-tempered, like most cats (and many of us humans) she could be crabby and stubborn. Even as the pace of her life began to slow down with the advancing years, her purr remained strong, yet surprisingly soft and deep.
Between frequent naps, Martha often found her way into my yoga room as my practice was winding down. She somehow seemed to sense the change in my energy, waiting patiently for me to finish my inversions and lie down for savasana. After I settled on the floor, Martha would climb onto my chest and lie down along the length of my sternum. At 6 pounds her weight was unobtrusive, but when she began to purr the effect was profound – instant and effortless pranayama! In fact the gentle rumble emanating from Martha was known to lead me down several of the eight limbs of Ashtanga yoga, once or twice into the state of Samadhi.
While I doubt Patanjali would recognize the potential connection between cats and yoga, Martha revealed some new facets for me. Working with active asanas I was sometimes reminded of the graceful, deliberate nature of her movement. But it is with restorative yoga in particular where I sense the feline nature of this ancient tradition: the ability to be in the present moment by moment, to be still, to dwell within, and to focus on the breath. These are all qualities that my savasana kitty illuminated for me, helping to deepen my knowledge and appreciation of this quiet practice.
Letting go of Martha last summer was not easy. But even the grieving process touched my yoga practice: I learned a little more about the nature of impermanence, and the value of detachment.