I Went to a Yoga Class with Miniature Goats
"When they poop on your mat, just flick it off," our instructor told us.
On an recent overcast Saturday morning, I rolled out my purple yoga mat in the middle of a field at No Regrets Farm in Albany, Oregon, about an hour south of Portland. It was a crisp morning, and I gently stretched my muscles to warm them up. Then a goat walked over and peed on my mat.
"When they poop on your mat, just flick it off," Heather Davis, the instructor, told us. "It's like a piece of grass."
Davis was teaching her third-ever class of "goat yoga," which combines a traditional vinyasa flow with the company of free-roaming miniature goats. She came up with the idea earlier this year, after she took her son to a birthday party at the Albany farm. She fell in love with the barnyard animals, the picturesque farmhouse, and the rolling fields, which she thought would be the perfect backdrop to practice yoga.
"She brought the yoga, and I brought the goats," Lainey Morse, the farm's owner, told me. "And that's how it was born."
Morse moved to the farm two years ago and credits the goats with getting her through a divorce and chronic illness, and wants to share them with anyone who's in need of an attitude adjustment from a furry friend. She even started hosting "goat happy hour"—an evening where friends can enjoy a glass of wine with the goats and watch the sunset from inside the old barn.
"It helped me so much that I started bringing other people over," she said. "Even if I was in pain, I would forget about it. It's really hard to be sad and depressed when there are baby goats jumping in your lap."
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Davis's first goat yoga class took place earlier this summer, in a field behind the barn overlooking acres of farmland, ranch houses, and grain silos.
The hour-long class is free, with a suggested donation of $10. For now, classes are limited to the summer months because it's outdoors, but Morse is looking to purchase a separate property with a barn where she can host goat yoga classes year round. She and Davis hope to hold classes a few times per week as more than 500 people have already asked about signing up for them, according to Morse.
"I could probably have hundreds in a class, but I only have six goats, and I wanted a good goat-to-people ratio," Morse told me. "I mean, yeah, they're coming for yoga, but I think they're really coming to have the interaction with a goat."
I had my doubts about the class being a Portlandia gimmick, but Morse is entirely genuine in wanting to share the goats to make others happy. She's held all of the goats every day since birth to socialize them and trains them to be polite to guests.
"You have to have friendly goats because some goats would try to headbutt people," Morse said. "They do have that reputation, but if you train them that you're not their toy, then all they want from you is love."
During my class, the goats had an interesting way of showing this love. After that first goat peed on my mat, several others scampered over to nibble on the corners of yoga mats and one rummaged through a pile of shoes, pulling out all the socks and chewing on them.
Davis explained that goat yoga may not be for everyone, but practicing with goats—who may poop, pee, or try to eat your mat—is a logical extension of yoga, which teaches us to deal with obstacles thrown at us in life.
After my mat was rinsed off, Davis asked the class to sit cross-legged and close their eyes. When we moved into child's pose, a little goat walked up to the woman in front of me to sniff her butt.
"It takes some of the seriousness out of yoga and life," Davis said, as she asked us to move into downward dog.
When I looked between my legs, there was a big yellow chicken scratching in the grass directly behind me. Her name was Khaleesi. I would find out later it's because she is "queen of the chickens."
Normally, I get distracted during yoga—I think about how I'm feeling hungry, or how I'm worried about work, or how boring I find the usual hippie-dippie breathing stuff. But in Davis's class, I found myself giggling, trying to keep my balance despite the goat chewing on my mat.
About a half an hour into the class, dark clouds rolled in, and the sky gave way to a light sprinkle. The goats fled into the barn, since apparently goats hate rain.
When the drops started to come down harder, everyone moved into the barn to hang with the goats. They act kind of like dogs, jumping into chairs or walking up to people to be pet. I sat on a bale of straw—something I would come to regret when I had to pick straw out of my yoga pants later—and Davis put one of the baby goats in my lap. The goat nestled into my arms like a baby, and I felt completely at peace.
"These are special goats," said Davis. "You can't just walk into any goat farm and roll out your yoga mat."
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