It may not be obvious, but combining a yoga practice with goats (“Goat Yoga”) has real, quantifiable benefits
Anyone who spends time with animals knows that being around them can make us feel good, and scientists have proven that this isn’t just in our heads. Animals have a measurable effect on our physiology. Interacting with animals—and sometimes even just watching them—lowers blood pressure and cholesterol levels; reduces anxiety and depression; improves sleeping habits, memory and mobility; and increases survival rates after life-threatening diseases.
And anyone who has taken a yoga class knows that yoga can make us feel good, too. The benefits of yoga—also supported by science—include increased flexibility and strength; decreased stress hormone levels; improved respiratory, cardio and circulatory health; and more.
When Lainey Morse had the idea to combine yoga with goats, it made perfect sense from a scientific perspective. But she came to the idea not through science, but through her own experience of what happens when people and goats hang out together. Prior to starting Goat Yoga, Morse lived with a herd of Nigerian dwarf and Boer goats (most are rescue goats) at No Regrets Farm in Oregon. She had been diagnosed with Sjogren’s syndrome, an autoimmune disease, and noticed that after spending time with her goats, she felt better. Though Morse doesn’t claim that interacting with goats cures Sjogren’s or any other disease, it did improve her mood, which can—through the mind-body connection—have a positive impact on overall health, and on the immune system in particular.
So Morse organized a couple of goat-interaction events for the public, to see if being with goats had the same impact on other people. She offered Goat Therapy, in which participants interacted and relaxed with goats, and Goat Happy Hour, in which participants unwound with goats while enjoying a glass of wine. Both events were successful. People really enjoyed spending time with the goats, and the experience seemed to have a positive, calming effect on the participants. One day, when Morse was hosting a children’s birthday party with the goats (an event she donated to raise money for charity), one of the moms, a yoga instructor, asked if she could hold a class in Morse’s picturesque field. Morse said yes, but told her the goats would have to join in. Like the other goat-interaction events Morse had been hosting, it was met with great enthusiasm, and Goat Yoga was born.
Goat Yoga is a yoga session in which goats wander freely through a yoga class, nuzzling, rubbing against and climbing on top of the students. It’s essentially a form of animal-assisted therapy, like therapeutic horseback riding for people with special needs or therapy dogs brought into nursing homes to cheer up the residents. The goat interaction calms people down and improves their mood, which has an overall positive impact as well as complementing the therapeutic effects of yoga.
Morse is often asked why she chose goats instead of other animals, such as cats or dogs, and she says it’s because goats are “unexpectedly smart, social and profoundly cuddly animals.” They’re also a lot of fun. Most goat keepers would agree, and claim that there is nothing better for raising one’s spirits than watching goats play. Their exuberant joy is so contagious that it’s nearly impossible to remain in low spirits around goats.
Morse doesn’t train her goats to participate in her Goat Yoga classes because she believes in “letting goats be goats, and doing (within reason) what they want.” This means that there is always a healthy dose of unpredictability in her classes. “They might jump on your back, stare into your soul, burp in your ear, or give goat hugs (trust me, it’s a thing),” or they might “just lay down on your yoga mat and snuggle up next to you,” she explains.
Shortly after Morse started Goat Yoga, it went viral. People were signing up on waiting lists with over 1,000 people to get into a class. So Morse decided to license her brand. There are now three farms that offer Morse’s brand of Goat Yoga, with another on its way. Morse also opened a satellite location in Portland, Oregon, and now, between her two sites and year-round classes, people don’t have to wait for the unique experience of practicing yoga with goats. There are also copycat goat yoga centers that have sprung up around the country, and these offer their own version of yoga with goats. So, if you are ready to switch from downward dog to downward goat, check out the list and find a goat yoga center near you.
Official Goat Yoga Locations
GOAT YOGA IN OREGON
Lainey Morse’s Goat Yoga
GOAT YOGA IN KENTUCKY
New Castle, Kentucky
GOAT YOGA IN PENNSYLVANIA
GOAT YOGA IN NEW YORK
Averill Park, New York
Other Yoga with Goat Classes
GOAT YOGA RICHARDSON
BUCK CREEK STABLES
Smiths Grove, Kentucky
GOAT YOGA TAMPA
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