Lydia Valenti
The Redmond Spokesman

If you go

The next class is 2 p.m. Jan. 13. Suggested donation: $10.

Jaimie Hamman, a yoga instructor and volunteer at BrightSide Animal Center in Redmond, started a monthly yoga class last summer where the cats at the animal shelter are invited too.

Hamman started practicing yoga in 2016 because of a physical ailment and found that “movement is medicine.” Her practice made such a difference in her life that just nine months after she started doing yoga, she enrolled in the teaching program at Namaspa in Redmond to become a Baptiste yoga instructor.

Hamman said her own cats watch her practice at home and sometimes get involved as she moves through yoga poses.

About six months ago, she came up with the idea of holding a monthly yoga class at the animal shelter, where most of the cats have free movement all the time. She brought it up to her supervisor — who surprisingly had been thinking over the same idea.

Inspired by cat cafes around the world, where people can go to drink a coffee and interact with cats, Hamman and her supervisor wanted to both reach out to the community and bring more people into the shelter.

Hamman’s supervisor at BrightSide decided to call it Na-Meow-Ste, a tongue-in-cheek take on “namaste” a Sanskrit greeting often said at the end of a yoga class.

After two cat adoptions came about from the yoga class, they realized it was also a great way for people to get to know the cats — the shelter has an average of 60-80 adoptable cats at any time — and perhaps decide to give one a permanent home.

Hamman said it really is a community class and can be unpredictable. She adjusts each class to the skill level of the people participating — and you never know how involved the cats will be.

“The cats make their independence clear,” she said.

Each participant signs a waiver and agrees to respect the cats’ independence and freedom of movement.

Melanie Hirata, of Redmond, has been to several of the cat yoga sessions, starting with the first one.

“It was an amazing experience,” she said. “I believe it’s very therapeutic.”

Hirata is a yogi, a cat lover and frequently involved in BrightSide events as a photographer so the combination was natural for her — and she enjoyed seeing other people get involved.

“I just see a lot of joy, the de-stress, people can step away from their daily grind,” she said. “Not only are they taking care of themselves, they’re giving the cats the love and attention they need.”

The cat population is constantly changing at the shelter, but several older cats have been consistently interested in the class.

Hamman plans to keep the class going as long as people are interested.

During the class, Hamman focuses on breath and movement, reminding the participants throughout the class to think about how their body feels in each pose, and sometimes encouraging the class to move and stretch like the cats.

“I really wanted to bring yoga more into the community and give people a place to get into their bodies,” she said.

— Reporter: 541-548-2185, lvalenti@redmondspokesman.com

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