Columnist

Laura Zoeller is a farm wife and mother who has been blessed with a wonderful – and funny - life.

Several years ago, I was really into running.

I ran several miles a day, several days a week. Sadly, I gave it up during a lengthy bout of depression after my mom died. Having been in what was likely the best shape of my life immediately before her terminal diagnosis, it somehow got skewed in my mind that there was a cause and effect happening.

I decided, since I was in prime physical form and was therefore able to assist my family in caregiving for my mom, that if I wasn’t in great shape anymore, nobody else that I loved could get sick and die.

It made sense at the time, at least to my grieving brain and heart.

As an act of healing and health, I decided a year or so ago to change some habits and begin the journey again. I changed the amount of water I drank, the amount of sugar I ate, and slowly began adding exercise back into my daily routine. It has paid off in the form of 45 pounds lost, being better able to breathe, and having more daily energy despite eating less.

But instead of simply running every day, I decided to try yoga as well. I read about how too much cardio can impede weight loss and strength because of burning off muscle as well as fat. I read that lifting weights can help. What could be better in that regard than lifting my body weight while working on balance and flexibility.

It has been six months of three classes a week. I’ve built from the 10-minute beginner’s classes to the 30-minute intermediate classes. I can say, it had been going well, except for the balance part – I still can’t stand on one leg for any amount of time – until this kitten of my daughter’s decided to like me.

She now follows me as I get my mat out. She lays on it, kneading it, while I cue up whichever episode of Yoga with Kassandra I decide to try to follow via YouTube that morning.

Apparently, there’s a movement of doing yoga with goats, which is supposed to help you relax by introducing animal therapy into the practice. I’ve not tried it, but I can attest to the fact that kitten yoga is not quite as relaxing as goat yoga purports to be.

This kitten swats at my hair while I’m in tabletop or plank position. She bites my toes if they wiggle too much while moving from upward to downward dog. When I do tiger pose, if there is room in my tee shirt, she crawls inside it to snuggle with me. And when I do bridge pose, she does the same. That one is harder to combat, as it puts her underneath my back and out of my vision. Trying to lower back to the ground and roll over is challenging even without a kitten in your shirt.

Focusing on breathing is also difficult while exerting the amount of effort it takes to contort my body into some of the positions I’m expected to reach. Couple it with a cat that likes to climb up people and doesn’t notice if they are wearing pants, and breathing is near impossible.

But whether or not I can relax during the practice, one thing is certainly true: she helps keep my average heart rate up for the duration of the workout.

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