Forget Downward Dog — Welcome to Goat Yoga

Forget Downward Dog — Welcome to Goat Yoga

Your new yoga partner might lick, nip or butt you in the head during a pose.

SourceCourtesy of Neil Parmar

Why you should care

Because it’s baaaadass.

I’m standing in a park with my arms extended overhead, right foot balanced on my left inner thigh. My drishti, or gaze, falls on a pile of food pellets just above my yoga mat. As I lower onto all fours, moving into salabhasana (locust pose), Spanky brushes up against my head, then noses through my bag. I don’t mind, although another yogi seems a bit perturbed when one of Spanky’s hairy little friends relieves himself on her mat. Without missing a beat, our teacher, Melina Morsch, hands the woman a spray bottle of all-purpose pine cleaner. It’s not like she hadn’t warned us about the risks of goat yoga: “The goats are not house-trained!” Morsch noted a day earlier in a “what to expect” email.

Striking poses with pets, like partnering with your pooch in a “doga” class, is actually a thing. Turns out, some also practice with cats, including at one kitty café in Australia. Goat yoga, though, isn’t exactly a BYOP — bring your own pet — kind of experience. The practice has popped up on farms in England, the Netherlands and Canada. Morsch, who owns FoxDen Yoga in Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario, started offering sessions ($28) in February after a friend rescued a couple of goats and suggested the idea. Now Morsch lets up to 13 pygmy goats wander through sessions roughly three times a month for groups of up to 50 yogis.

The trend kicked off two summers ago at Lainey Morse’s farm in Willamette Valley, Oregon, after a yoga instructor wanted to host a class there. But Morse says her farm wasn’t zoned correctly, so now she hosts goat yoga at a bed-and-breakfast ($35) or vineyard ($75, with wine tasting). “It provides people a sense of calm because goats have that sense of calm about them — they go into this meditative state and are oddly relaxing to watch,” says Morse.

One of my classmates seems entranced. She’s spent most of our 60-minute session stroking a trio of kids surrounding her mat, with another on her lap. Pet therapy? Perhaps for some. But there’s much more concentration required here than in a regular class, and I’m struggling to get through some beginner-level poses without losing my balance. I keep thinking of Morsch’s warning note and wondering what my next encounter might be: “The goats will lick you, climb on you, cuddle you and head-bump you gently.”

They mostly leave me alone, which, I must admit, is a bit disappointing. So is learning that some goat-yoga programs haven’t been approved by health boards, meaning the goats may not be properly vaccinated or wormed. And certain companies supposedly dress their goats in costumes. “I get attacked by animal activists all the time … say[ing] it looks like a circus,” says Morse, whose goats participate au naturel.

Standard across most classes is some time at the end to nuzzle the kids and, for those so inclined, to take selfies. No thanks. I am, however, appreciative of getting the chance to embrace my inner kid — even if I probably won’t do it again anytime soon.

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