I read a story in the news this week that has one of those headlines that sounds completely ridiculous at first: “‘Goat yoga’ is a thing.” It probably makes you wonder what it is exactly — making goats do yoga poses?
But, as is often the case with ridiculous sounding headlines, the real story is a little bit different and a lot more interesting. And yes, “goat yoga” is really a lot better idea than it sounds in those two words.
Goat yoga was started in Albany, Oregon by a woman named Lainey Morse after a yoga instructor attended a children’s birthday party at her farm and told Morse that it would be an ideal location for classes. To Morse, this meant that her eight goats had to be involved, and the rest is apparently history. Believe it or not, she quickly found herself with a waiting list of over twelve hundred people wanting to participate. Why?
As Morse told CNN “Goats are perfect for the yoga practice because it’s not only combining nature and animals, it’s combining yoga, and they all go together so well.”
Note the key word in there — “nature.” This is exactly why I have so many different animals at the Dog Psychology Center, because each one of them is an opportunity to bring humans closer to nature and to their dogs in different ways. For example, my llama Lorenzo and donkey Marty are great at helping people be less intimidated around large animals so they learn how to be more confident with their own dogs. My sheep and goats help the dogs connect to their herding instincts and, by extension, show people what it’s like when their dog gets to be just a dog.
When most people who haven’t had experience with it think of “yoga,” they probably think of people contorting themselves into odd poses, forgetting that the word yoga comes from the Sanskrit for “union.” The union in yoga is the one between body, mind, and spirit. Adding in the animals is that extra bridge between our human world of intellect and emotion and the natural world of pure being.
If you’ve ever spent time around goats, you know that they’re very simple animals — curious without being overly intrusive, trusting of humans, and generally docile except when a couple of males go head-to-head over territory. During yoga sessions, they make themselves right at home, and the whole thing has a ton of rave reviews at the goat yoga Facebook page.
There’s something fascinating about watching adult humans from the city interacting with farm animals at the DPC. The encounters bring out the kid in the people, and if I let them they’d probably hang around feeding lettuce and carrots to the goats, sheep, and donkey all day long.
So while the phrase “goat yoga” may at first sound like something from a Saturday Night Live parody of left coast hippie culture, the more you think about it, the more sense it makes. Yoga is designed to help humans get in touch with their instinctual sides. Animals live in the world of instinct every moment of every day, so are our best teachers when it comes to learning how to do the same.
There’s one other lesson here for our intellectual sides as well — always read beyond the headline, because the real story usually makes a lot more sense.
Stay calm, and don’t let anyone get your goat!