Goat Yoga: How this Exercise Trend Heals

goat standing on a haystack in front of yogis at NY Goat Yoga

Feature Photo by Korver Photography. Image provided by NY Goat Yoga, hosting classes every Sunday at 3pm.

Yoga can be a very intense workout that requires deep concentration and peace of mind. With that knowledge, it seems counterproductive and quite ridiculous for goats to be mixed into such a mindful exercise. However, this trend may not be as much of a physical exercise as it is a form of therapy and relaxation. So, what is Goat Yoga and why is it so interesting? Why are hundreds of people waiting in lines to participate in this bizarre practice?

How Goats and Yoga Came Together as One

The original “Goat Yoga” began unexpectedly in 2016 at a farm in Willamette Valley, Oregon. Lainey Morse, the owner of the farm, was throwing a birthday party when yoga instructor Heather Davis suggested using the farm space to teach a yoga class. Morse agreed, but only if her goats could join in as well. After seeing the potential in such an outlandish idea, Morse turned her fantasy into reality and the classes began.

Today, Morse’s Goat Yoga classes can be found in California, Kentucky, Pennsylvania, New York, Illinois, Minnesota, and of course, Oregon. The exercise is so popular that some locations have up to 1,200 people on waiting lists. The classes take 30 minutes, and an average of eight goats from a few weeks to 2 years old are expected to be running around.

The experience became so popular and received so much attention that the practice is expanding to farms throughout the country. Kristie Gutierrez shares her recent experience at Grady Goat Yoga in Florida:

“I wasn’t sure what to expect, but the group I went with was thrilled with the goat yoga experience. It was amazing how these animals interacted with everyone—the joy and smiles they generated were infectious. It was a much needed mental break from everyday life.” – Kristie Gutierrez

Why are People Obsessing Over It?

Those who have or are planning to participate in this exercise will realize that there is nothing new or revolutionary about the yoga they will be practicing. The true shine comes from the presence of the goats who are running around cuddling with participants. This is where Goat Yoga stands out. Whereas traditional yoga is practiced as a physical exercise and for the benefits that come with it, Goat Yoga is practiced to cheer people up and deliver a break from the stresses of life through animal-assisted therapy.

Vanessa J Pellegrino, Marketing Coordinator at NY Goat Yoga, says, “Goat yoga teaches you to not take life too seriously, live in the NOW! When the goats enter the room all the yogi’s immediately start laughing and release all judgments of oneself and those around them. When a goat jumps on you during your yoga practice they demand all your attention. Santosha principle refers to an acceptance of the present moment. By finding peace in any circumstance, you begin to learn that every challenge is an opportunity for growth.”

While attending Goat Yoga, Morse says you can expect the goats to “jump on your back, stare into your soul, burp in your ear, or give goat hugs.” But most often she says, “they’ll just lay down on your yoga mat and snuggle up next to you.”

The Benefits of Goat Yoga

While Goat Yoga is (probably) not going to give you the intense workout that a regular Yoga session will, people are attending these exercise classes as a form of animal-assisted therapy. Morse claims that her goats helped her forget that she was in pain and kept her from feeling depressed during a very rough part of her life.

I was diagnosed with an autoimmune disease while also going through a divorce. Dealing with both at once was very difficult. There was only one thing that would always make me feel better, and that was my goats. . .I want to pass along that gift so that my goats can help others!” – Lainey Morse, Goat Yoga

The simple act of petting an animal releases serotonin, prolactin, and oxytocin. These chemicals lower anxiety and help in relaxation, provide comfort, reduce feelings of loneliness, and increase mental stimulation. That is, being around these animals can aid in the recall of memories and help sequence temporal events in patients with head injuries or degenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s. More importantly, Morse claims that her goats provide an escape or a happy distraction from the negativities in life and can act as a catalyst in the therapy process. Apart from the mental benefits of goat yoga therapy, Morse claims that there are a plethora of health benefits from both the yoga and interaction with the animals. These include:

  • Lowered blood pressure and improved cardiovascular health
  • Slowed breathing in anxious persons
  • Reductions in the number of medications some people need since goat yoga therapy works as a substitute
  • Diminished overall physical pain
  • A more relaxed exercise session
  • Rebalanced endocrine system

Embrace the Experience and Reap the Benefits

While Goat Yoga may not be for those looking for an intensive new workout routine, it definitely seems like an enjoyable and relaxing practice. If you don’t go for the mental and physical benefits, then go for the bizarre but exciting experience. Who doesn’t want to do a plank and cuddle a goat at the same time?  If you don’t live in one of the states mentioned above, don’t worry! Do a local search and see what you can find. You might be surprised to find one near you.

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Josh Miles is a St. Petersburg/Tampa based writer who studied Business Management and Marketing at the University of South Florida. He believes that time spent with good friends and a connection with nature are keys to a healthy and happy life. In his free time, you will find him exercising, listening to music, or playing video games with friends.

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