“Dogs come when they’re called; cats take a message and get back to you.” —Missy Dizick and Mary Bly, Dogs Are Better Than Cats (1985)

My yoga instructor made a really interesting point in yoga class last week. Why are so many yoga poses named after animals? Think about it—cat, cow, elephant trunk, pigeon, dolphin, fish, and, my favorite, the beloved downward dog yoga pose.

Could it could be that the poses mimic actual animal behavior? I do feel like a cat when I’m in cat pose but don’t feel too much like a dog when I’m in downward dog, though.

Her theory is that animals bring joy to our lives with the companionship they provide, their unconditional love, and the wag of their tails. Animals can also help reduce stress (well, most of the time, if they aren’t making a mess of your house). And she’s right; yoga does all those same things. It brings joy to my life, loves me even though I’m totally unflexible, and is the best way I know to bring down my stress to a manageable level.

Hmmm…what’s your theory on why these poses were renamed from their original Sanskrit names to English animal names?

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