Yoga With Goats is the Newest Wellness FadMar 7, 2017
Every Thursday at a small, scenic farm in Albany, Oregon, yogis assemble from near and far to practice downward-facing dog and crow poses in the company of eight sweet and spirited goats. As the students perform their asanas, the goats snuggle up and snooze on the edges of the mats or even scale people’s backs and scamper between their outstretched limbs.
The hooved and horned animals might seem like random companions for the age-old zen practice, but they’re attracting staggering crowds to the weekly class, sparking a new wellness trend that Goat Yoga founder and farm owner Lainey Morse could never have imagined, had she not trusted her whimsical instincts.
Morse first moved to Oregon ten years ago, inspired by a photograph she spotted in a wall calendar. She was living in the dry desert environment of Phoenix, Arizona at the time, and she found herself drawn to the mossy green landscape of the Pacific Northwest. So, she purchased a fight to Portland, rented a car, and drove until she wound up in the city of Corvallis, which immediately felt like home. As she explained to the Washington Post, she instantly thought, “This is where I’m going to live. It was a big leap of faith, and it totally paid off.”
It was an intuitive calling that inspired the beginnings of her herd of goats, too. She had always dreamed of owning goats — “I’d see videos and think they’re just such cool animals,” she said, though she had “never even touched one” before. Not deterred by her lack of experience, she bought a copy of Raising Goats for Dummies and two baby goats she named Ansel and Adams. By 2015, her two pets had become four, strutting happily and healthily around the lush fields at her aptly-named No Regrets Farm, a fifteen-minute drive from Corvallis.
But it wasn’t until personal hardship struck that she fully realized the goats’ influence and significance. While going through a divorce, she was simultaneously diagnosed with an immune disorder called Sjogren’s Sydrome, which is similar to Lupus. The animals brought immense healing during the difficult time, she explained: “Every day I would come home from work, sit out in my field and spend time with my goats. It ended up being so therapeutic to me. It’s hard to be sad and depressed when you have baby goats jumping around you.”
Though through difficult means, Morse had discovered what has now become her unique formula to treat ailments of all sorts: interaction with goats in a soothing natural setting. She began inviting stressed friends to her farm for what she called Goat Happy Hour, and these sorts of visits became increasingly popular for people who were “just having an off-day,” feeling depressed, or simply seeking to raise their spirits by gallivanting with the charming pets. At a charity event, she auctioned off a children’s birthday party to be held at No Regrets, and one of the kids’ parents turned out to be a yoga teacher who was the first to suggest holding a yoga class at the picturesque location. The concept might have seemed fanciful, but it quickly proved not just plausible, but hugely popular.
Fast forward to today: Morse has quit her prior full-time job to manage and build the Goat Yoga business, and the waiting list for weekly sessions is 1,200 people long, growing by dozens (or even hundreds) every day. Most of the participants are out-of-towners who come to sate their curiosity and to seek a comforting experience they can’t find in their urban locales. “It’s mostly people that live in big cities like Seattle and Portland” and crave a dose of country life and quirky animal therapy, Morse told the Washington Post.
All because she followed her bliss, Morse has brought bliss to each person who takes part in the class — she said she sees “pure bliss” in “the look on people’s faces” as they practice, pose, and play. “I know it may sound silly, but it really helps people. It helped me when I went through this diagnosis, which was just awful. I have had people who had cancer come to the classes and they’ll tell me, ‘That helped my head more than anything I tried.’”
Prior participants corroborate Morse’s reports. In a Facebook review, attendee Cherie Twohy wrote, “I’ve had a rough couple of years, and this put a smile on my face that I can’t remember feeling in a while. The [teacher] was great, and the joy in that barn was palpable. And the snuggly babies? Well, I hope they counted them, because I know there was temptation to sneak one into a yoga bag…” Another participant, Tasha Huebner, said, “I’m pretty much a total curmudgeon, but friends saw the pic I posted of me holding a baby goatsie and noted I was BEAMING. It was that awesome. All the goatsies are so sweet and friendly, and the actual yoga is somehow at a level that’s appropriate for beginners as well as those more familiar with yoga.”
Perhaps particularly these days, we can all use a pleasant distraction and a channel to connect us more deeply to nature’s rhythms. Goat Yoga does just that. It’s equal parts relaxing and energizing, soothing and silly, and an altogether heartwarming way to cultivate joy for Morse, her animals, and everyone who crosses their path.