Finding a connection between fans of yoga and a passion for animal welfare isn’t a stretch (pun intended). In an industry focused on physical wellness and spiritual contentment, there are many yoga devotees who choose a vegetarian diet and support animal rescue efforts. So, it really shouldn’t be a surprise to see that someone thought of blending those related fields.
One of the latest is a practice called “goat yoga.”
If a goat jumped on you or your child in a petting zoo you might shoo him away. But now people are laying down money – and their bodies – so goats can walk all over them.
It began in 2016 when an Oregon woman named Lainey Morse was going through a tough time in life, and found that her feelings of depression were much improved when she spent time with her Nigerian Dwarf goats. Once she began inviting friends to join her, they started noting how relaxing it was, and it eventually became “a thing.”
How does it work?
It’s like you imagine it: A yogi leads the class, while participants strike the usual poses. Meanwhile, goats walk around (or a trainer leads them up and down) rows of class members, and the goats climb onto their backs, standing upright, leaning on each of the yoga participants, one at a time.
Restorative yoga? Well, if you want that typically quiet practice, where you hold long, restful poses while you meditate, then you probably want to stick to cobras and downward-facing dogs. Classes with live goats are a little more … active.
“It really surprised me how much I giggled during the yoga class,” said Dawn Coen of Canyon Country, who participated in her first goat yoga class for a fundraiser this summer. “The goats were adorable and friendly. Their hooves would massage our backs while we were in a pose. Goat yoga is a unique experience that you should try.”
The company Party Goats Los Angeles has brought stars of the show, Spanky and Pippin, to Santa Clarita – to put the “goat” in “goat yoga” – on several occasions. Scout Raskin, the company’s owner and “goat mom,” has been doing goat yoga for about a year and a half. She acquired Spanky and Pippin when they were just 2 months old and she trained them to do yoga immediately.
“Our company was founded on the idea of bringing joy to people through goats,” Raskin said. “In less than two years, we’ve done just that for hundreds of people through goat yoga, TV and film, hiking with goats, parties, and goat therapy.”
Raskin explained that, unlike restful, quiet yoga classes, choosing goat yoga really depends on what you’re hoping to get out of your yoga practice. If you’re looking for deep concentration and slow, meditative moves, then goat yoga isn’t for you, she said. If you are looking for an experience that is guaranteed to make you laugh and help you be in the moment, then it may be a good match.
“I liked that it was more lighthearted, not overly serious,” said Tracy Hauser of Santa Clarita, who hosted several goat yoga classes at her home to benefit the Michael Hoefflin Foundation, a children’s cancer non-profit. “It was wonderful watching everyone laughing and having a good time. Animals can be very therapeutic. I’ve seen it with my own kids.”
According to Raskin, there are benefits beyond the novelty of doing yoga around goats.
“Goat yoga is an amazing way to release tension, have fun, and connect with these very therapeutic animals,” she said. “Goats were the second animal domesticated after dogs, so it’s in our DNA to want to connect with their calm spirits. It’s also impossible to think of your problems when there’s a goat around or on your back.”
Spanky & Pippin jump on backs for added core strength and are even trained to stay on your back as you move from pose to pose. “They help test your balance during standing poses by putting their front hooves on you and going underneath your legs,” Raskin explained. “Finally, they use their front hooves to help you take your stretches deeper. At the end of class we always take Shavasana (corpse pose) on our stomachs, so they can give everyone a nice post-yoga back massage.”
Whether it’s a physical or an emotional massage an individual is looking for, participants seem to agree: Goat yoga is a rare experience. The crossover of interest – combining animals and the physical/spiritual practice of yoga – is a different way to obtain the divine spark, both relaxing and livening up this increasingly common form of exercise.
Even if it does sort of bend the rules.