If you have spent any time around cats, you have likely noticed a few things such as their amazing flexibility, their speed and agility, their intense napping schedule and the fact that they are straight up adorable (I digress). We know there is something special about the way our feline friends move, and have adopted cat-like moves into our own stretching routines. Most every yogi has experienced the cat pose - a mainstay of most yoga classes. When this pose is performed, it imitates the arched back of a cat waking from a good nap. The great news is that we can perform this stretch anywhere, anytime and experience all the benefits our feline friends do! We can totally channel our inner cat when we do our stretching routines ... is that weird? Nah.
Cats would be clear contenders in the sleep Olympics, if there were such a thing - dare to dream...(I think I might have just created a slogan for the fictitious sleep Olympics). Clocking in at between 12 and 16 hours of sleep per day, cats double the sleep most of their human counterparts get. When we sleep, our brain paralyzes most of our muscles so that we do not act out our dreams – such as (but not limited to) flying, showing our boss where to go, performing fire baton routines, intense karate and so on. Cats are no different, this temporary paralysis is what prevents cats from chasing a bird off the end of the couch as they snooze. A deep relaxation occurs with sleep, lowering the body’s blood pressure. Stay tuned though, because as cats wake, the stretching magic begins.
In order for cats to be prepared to pounce, sprint, jump and tap into their amazing agility, they begin the process of moving and stretching their bodies. While we don’t chase mice or pounce, we do need to restore our blood pressure to its pre-sleep state, which, in turn, increases blood flow to our muscles and brain. This helps wake us up and makes us more alert. Cats instinctively recover from sleep by stretching. These big stretches are not only adorable, they prepare the cat’s body for activity, lengthening the muscles to their agile, pre-sleep state. As the muscles start to move, toxins such as lactic acid and carbon dioxide, which accumulate during inactivity, are flushed out through increased blood and lymph circulation. After a good stretch sesh, kitty is ready to take on the day...or at least a few minutes before the next nap. This stretching primes not only a cat’s body, but our own bodies. Stretching in the morning sets us up to be alert, alleviates discomfort in our muscles and gets our blood pumping so to speak. Experts claim morning to be the perfect time to stretch, however, stretching throughout the day can provide fantastic mind/body benefits – great news for cat nappers!
One additional reason cats stretch is to show their humans affection and to attract their attention. This is the reason why cats will stretch right in front of you, often offering up a soft belly to pat, or a back to scratch. Experiences at the gym tell me that this behavior occurs with people too – who hasn’t seen a bodybuilder stretching to show off their accomplished physic, or an athlete ready to take the field stretching to not only prime their body but show anyone watching that they are ready to go. I could go into belly rubs and back scratches, but I fear that might take this in an altogether different direction. Suffice it to say that the benefits of stretching for a healthy mindset, flexibility, comfort and just plain feeling refreshed and ready to go inspire us to follow in the paw prints of our furry friends and make stretching a part of our day.
Show us your stretching kitty! Find us on Facebook and share a picture of your feline friends stretching it out - bonus points if you capture a picture of you stretching with them!