“If a goat poops on your mat, shake it off,” says teacher Heather Davis, picking up a student’s yoga mat and giving it a brisk shake to release the fresh pellets onto the hay below. “If one pees on your mat, we’ll give you a new mat.” So go the hazards of goat yoga, along with the chance that a goat may jump on your back, bite off a chunk of hair, or lie down on your mat, blocking your vinyasa.
The upside? Goats are really, really cute. Especially baby goats. “They bring a note of playfulness,” Davis says. “They distract you from all the hard things about yoga, but at the same time they really bring your focus all here.”
I’ve been to many yoga studios over the last 25 years, but have seldom heard as much laughter and delight as I did while experiencing goat yoga in Corvallis, Oregon.
Backstory on Goat Yoga in Corvallis, Oregon
When I told people I was going to a goat yoga class, they mostly fell into two camps: envious and skeptical. To the envious folks, the lure was self-apparent—cute goats! The skeptical people asked what on earth goats added to yoga, and dismissed it as gimmicky.
So here’s the backstory. In spring of 2016, Lainey Morse was diagnosed with an autoimmune disease while going through a divorce. The only thing that brought her solace was spending time with her pet goats, especially a darling Nigerian Dwarf mini goat named Annie. As she points out on her website, “Equine and canine therapy are widely used and recognized for their medical benefits, so why not goat therapy?”
She decided to share these benefits—such as lowered anxiety and blood pressure and increased relaxation—with others. So in August 2016, goat yoga was born.
The goats now travel several days a week from their home on Morse’s farm to classes held at the Hanson Country Inn in Corvallis and Emerson Vineyards in Monmouth. The program has been wildly successful, with sold-out classes and tons of media coverage.
Around the country, people have embraced goat yoga. Gilbert, Arizona is home to the other well-established goat yoga program. Classes are also starting this year in DC, Nashville, New Hampshire, and Dallas.
Taking a Goat Yoga Class
I attended a goat yoga class on a Wednesday afternoon in Corvallis. A large white canvas tent, open on several sides, shielded us from possible rain showers while allowing views of green fields and plenty of air circulation. I was glad the goat yoga folks provide the mats as I chose a spot on the bumpy hay, avoiding scattered goat droppings.
About 20 people and eight goats attended. Nobody pushed the goats off their mats—after all, we were there for goats, not to refine our yoga poses. But I was surprised how much the goats seemed to enjoy the yoga class, too. The open sides of the tent offered easy escape, but our ruminant friends stayed inside the makeshift studio.
Goat yoga classes are short, usually either 30 minutes or an hour, with an equal length of goat hugging time afterward. Our class included an easy flow of warrior poses, triangle, downward dog, floor stretches, and a long savasana, with a lot of breaks to pet or hug passing goats.
Some goats took up residence on a particular mat—I had the handsome Quincy with me for a while—and we worked around them, or sometimes incorporated them into the pose, such as draping myself over Quincy in child’s pose or resting my head on him in downward dog.
Everybody just laughed when the goats did things we’d never encounter in a yoga studio, such as a baby nursing from his mama in the middle of somebody’s mat.
“A lot of people who come here might not have tried yoga,” Davis told me after class. “But they come because of the goats.” Indeed, my friend Heide brought her goat-loving daughter who could do without yoga. Davis is excited that the goats expose more people to yoga. “Yoga’s for everyone, but not everybody thinks it is.” Get more details about the goat yoga classes online here.