For a few years now, goat yoga has really started catching on amongst the yoga community and has even caught the eyes of non-yogis.
Yes, you heard right!
Whether you’re new to yoga or you’ve been practicing for a while, it’s likely that you’ve at least heard talk of doing yoga with goats.
Either way, you might have some questions about it, because it is yoga with goats after all.
So what’s the purpose of practicing yoga with goats? Are there physical and mental benefits to goat yoga?
Even when you set aside the benefits that come along with practicing yoga in general, there are still so many benefits to practicing with goats!
Therapy animals are incredible for so many reasons, and there really is something to be said for having loving and intuitive animals nearby.
Whether a person struggles with mental illness or not, spending time with animals is so beneficial to their health. The presence of animals can help lift spirits in almost any situation.
So what should you know before jumping on the mat with goats? How does it work? Is it ethical toward the animals? Where can you practice yoga with goats? Keep reading to learn more!
How Did Goat Yoga Get Started?
Instagram yoga sensation, Rachel Brathen (Yoga Girl), started posting videos of her sweet baby goat, Penny, climbing all over her back in downward facing dog and other postures as she moved through her practice in 2015.
To say that the Instagram-yoga community was insanely excited and borderline obsessed is an understatement. With over 2 million Instagram followers, Brathen already had a wide scope of reach.
People loved watching this little baby goat jump all over her and her mat while she practiced. It seemed like Instagram-yogis everywhere were about to go out and buy goats for themselves!
Shortly after this craze began, in 2016 on a farm in Oregon, Lainey Morse had several friends over to enjoy the stunning mountain views.
While one of her yoga instructor friends admired the view, she suggested the idea of holding a class out there.
Jokingly, Morse responded that it could work but the goats would have to join in on the fun.
Morse was dealing with issues in her personal life at the time—going through a divorce and being diagnosed with an autoimmune disease. She explains that she was incredibly depressed and that spending time with the animals helped make her feel so much better.
It was her stress reliever. She knew how much she loved being around the goats, so she knew that other people could benefit from it as well. The idea for goat yoga stuck, and she ran with it!
It didn’t take long for Morse’s goat yoga classes to start filling up, and at one point she even had over 2,300 people on the waitlist at once. While people were lining up by the hundreds for these classes, Morse was unable to actually trademark Goat Yoga, as it was too generic.
Now many different people are hosting goat yoga all throughout the country and even internationally.
Goat yoga can now be found in many different cities. Farmers markets and co-ops will often hold goat yoga once a month or so with the goats from the farms where they actually get their goats’ milk and cheese.
Morse owns Nigerian Dwarf goats, which are miniature animals that only grow up to 30 or 40 pounds. She also has three different locations in Oregon now, and she’s beginning to license out the “Original Goat Yoga” name and logo to farms in four other states.
How Does Goat Yoga Work?
Typically goat yoga is either held on a farm, in a barn or in a field so that there’s plenty of space for both the practitioners and the goats.
Goat yoga is essentially held in the same way as a normal yoga class, but there are just goats roaming around! The goats are free to roam as they please, and sometimes they can end up settling in on your mat!
It’s not uncommon for these little goats to jump up on your back in child’s pose or run between your legs in warrior 1.
They’ve even been known to pee on people’s mats! You just never know what you’ll get.
They love to come over and cuddle while you’re practicing, and that’s where the beauty of goat yoga lies.
Though they might be a small distraction during your practice, they’re also a welcomed distraction. Anyone who loves the company of animals will love goat yoga.
The interaction they have with students is incredible. Keep an open mind about goats climbing all over you while you practice, and you’ll be fine!
What Is the Purpose of Goat Yoga?
The purpose of practicing yoga with goats is ultimately to provide a little-lighthearted spirit to your practice.
Goat yoga is not overly intensive, as often times the focus is not on the physical yoga practice in itself, but rather on the good mood that arises from being surrounded by these incredible farm animals.
With goats hanging out on your mat and climbing on your back while you practice, it’s likely you won’t really be getting in your best workout.
Although, if you have a goat resting on your back while you’re in plank, you must be working pretty hard! Though not the most physically intense practice, goat yoga is such an enjoyable time.
Though it isn’t a traditional yoga experience, it will most likely put you in a great mood!
A little laughter is a fantastic medicine for everyone. How could you not love those sweet goat’s faces?
The purpose of goat yoga is really just to let loose, have fun, enjoy your practice and your time with these sweet creatures.
Many farmers markets or co-ops will offer goat yoga with the goats from the farms where they get their cheese and milk. The beauty of this is the human-animal bond that is formed between these living beings.
You realize that these are kind and compassionate living creatures. The purpose here is that practitioners are able to see where their food is coming from, and they can see first-hand that the animals are happy and well taken care of.
What Are the Benefits of Goat Yoga?
While practicing yoga with goats is focused less on the physical practice of yoga and more on having a good time with loving animals, there are definitely benefits that come along with that!
Though you may find the distraction of practicing with goats walking all over you as a way to hone in on your focus and self-discipline, you might also just view it as a way to enjoy yourself and your practice.
There is definitely a reason that therapy animals and emotional support animals exist, and goat yoga seems to prove this need. There are certainly therapeutic effects to being near goats or petting goats.
Having that physical contact or even just being in the same vicinity as them can stimulate a relaxation response in the brain and move throughout the body. This can help alleviate depression and anxiety.
Not only will you be receiving the mental benefits of practicing yoga in general, but you’ll also have the added benefit of animal therapy.
Goats are carefree and kind creatures, so practicing with them can help lift your spirits as well as reflect those same carefree traits within you.
Laughter therapy is also something that’s been researched greatly in recent years. Through the rise of goat yoga, it is increasingly apparent how it can relate to laughter therapy.
Laughter is a positive sensation, and it’s been shown that the more laughter is created in the physical body, the more prevalent positive feelings become.
It’s a fantastic way to relieve stress and anxiety, and it demonstrates how important the power of positive thinking really is.
Laughter actually affects the dopamine and serotonin levels in the body, and endorphins secreted in the body through laughter can physically help a person’s mood change in a positive way.
The positive effect that laughter can have on mental health is huge, and practicing yoga with goats certainly increases that laughter!
Goat yoga is simply there to make you smile and help provide a sense of comfort and ease.
Strengthening the bond between humans and animals helps create a connection that many people are hoping for. Self-esteem, happiness, and overall health can be positively affected by practicing yoga with goats.
What Are the Ethical Question Marks Behind Goat Yoga? Is It Humane?
As one might expect, there is a great deal of controversy surrounding goat yoga. It’s fantastic that people are considering its ethicality and asking the hard but necessary questions.
Real yogis everywhere value the lives of animals as much as they value those of humans. In yoga, practitioners live by ahimsa or “non-harming”.
The wish is that all creatures everywhere be happy and free. Keeping this in mind, it is possible to practice goat yoga ethically.
There are many amazing farms that host their own classes. The goats are not dragged away from their home, and in many situations remain in the same field where they would normally frolic.
There are also tons of farmers markets and co-ops that offer goat yoga every month or so. These classes actually involve goats from the very farms where these markets and co-ops get their goats’ milk or cheese.
The purpose of this is so that their customers really know where their food is coming from. They see that these goats are happy, treated well, and are real living beings.
The beauty of farms, farmers markets and co-ops offering goat yoga is the connection that it helps create between humans and these incredible animals.
The human-animal bond is strengthened, and positive interaction is formed. The more positive interaction that humans and animals have, the more humans can understand and appreciate animals for all they do.
You do, of course, have to conduct your own research before deciding where to practice goat yoga. There are many unethical goat yoga classes out there as well—classes that are said to be more circus-like than anything.
These are the ones to watch out for. The main thing is to realize that these goats—or any other farm animal you might practice yoga with—are not attractions. They aren’t there for your entertainment.
Furthermore, when you spend money on yoga—or anything, for that matter—you’re ultimately casting a vote. It’s crucial to do research, and come to know and understand the type of farm you’re supporting with your dollars.
How do they treat their animals behind the scenes? Do they kill animals for food there? It’s so important to consider these things.
Would you really give money toward a farm that will eventually kill these animals for food? Most likely not, which is why it’s critical to know where you’re practicing and to whom you’re giving your money.
Where Can I Practice Goat Yoga?
Goat yoga is catching on so quickly throughout the US and internationally, that it’s easily found in most major cities and even in smaller farm towns.
A quick Google search can lead you in the right direction, but make sure to do your research before making a decision. Typically, farmers markets or co-ops that offer goat yoga do so in an incredibly ethical way.
Small, family-owned farms are usually a great option as well.
When you find a few options, do some digging into the type of facility they have to make sure their animals are being treated with lots of love!
Goat yoga is to help support the mental health of the practitioners as well as strengthen the bond between humans and these amazing, kind-hearted creatures.
Find a place to practice that reflects all of those positive traits, and you’ll be in for an awesome treat!
Get ready for lots of fun, so much laughter, tons of goat cuddles, and maybe even a little goat pee! It’s truly an incredible experience that will last a lifetime.