Almost 18 million U.S. adults practice meditation, but there’s a new trend on the horizon: petitation. This movement is one where animals can lend a helping paw to their owners during exercises like meditation and yoga.
Elisabeth Paige is a research associate with the UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine, and she recently coined and copyrighted the term “petitation.” Paige experimented with multiple treatments for her bipolar disorder before trying meditation. She explained that traditional meditation still didn’t entirely ease her feelings of anxiety.
“I tried it. I hated it. I couldn’t concentrate and be still and quiet for 10 minutes,” Paige told UC Davis News.
But when Paige attempted meditation while petting her dog, Pago, she felt calmer and eventually learned that instead of traditional meditation, she was practicing a form of mindfulness. And she knew others could benefit from her findings.
Her book, Petitiation, takes readers through a simple, step-by-step process that helps deal with stress, frustration, gratitude, and a multitude of other emotions. Even better, the book is “narrated” by her dog, Pago.
“Most pet lovers can focus for at least a few minutes on stroking their pets. This can be how the fur feels or the rhythm of their heartbeat or breathing,” Paige explained.
And Paige’s practices have spread, although maybe not exactly in the way she intended. Now, yoga and other meditative classes are utilizing animals to help relive stress, enhance meditative experiences, and assist local animal shelters.
Tara Smith came up with her “Meowmaste: Yoga with Cats!” workshop at the Miami-Dade Animal Services Pet Adoption and Protection Center when she was tasked to create a yoga project in her community.
“I immediately thought of this shelter,” Smith told The Pueblo Chieftain. “I was a big part of building this shelter and its opening last year. I knew how beautiful it is and I wanted to bring exposure to it.”
Not only does the class allow participants to practice yoga among fluffy kittens and cats, it benefits the shelter. With some 60 million feral cats roaming the U.S. on any given day, shelters are always looking for adoption candidates. And if a yoga class can help them gain exposure, so much the better.
Practicing meditation or yoga with pets may be an act of mindfulness, but it sure is a cute one.