Sitting back on my heels, I take a deep breath and fold forward over my thighs, placing my forehead to my mat. Listening carefully to the teacher’s instructions, I begin to breathe into the space, observing my thoughts and surroundings while resting in the child’s pose position. I can hear birds chirping overhead and feel the warm wind gently grazing the back of my neck as I soak in the serene botanical garden sounds. As I continue to take in my surroundings, relaxing into my first yoga posture of the day, I suddenly feel four tiny hooves land on my lower back. “Stay still, the goats love a flat surface to jump on!” the teacher shouts.
Welcome to goat yoga, where your classmates forgo the yogic flow and happily invade your personal space by jumping on your back, trotting under your legs and weaving between your arms as you stretch and flex your way through a yoga class.
We’ve all heard about the many fitness trends, from glow-in-the-dark cycling classes and paddle board yoga to aerial fitness and sunrise raves, and everything in between. Goat yoga, which is yoga exercised in tandem with these furry four-legged friends, has now hit the scene and is bringing a whole new level of playfulness to your yoga practice.
While I’ve always been an animal lover and a dedicated yoga student, I never imagined the possibility of combining the two. When the South Bay Botanical Gardens advertised their Goats, Yoga & Mimosas (G.Y.M.) event, I instantly jumped at the chance to experience this animal-friendly yoga class for myself.
The goats used in these yoga classes seem to always have a unique story behind how they entered the yoga world. The four goats in my class were rescued from a dairy farm that burned down in a 2017 California wildfire. They now happily live on Hello Critter farm, where they can practice their yoga-mounting skills on wine barrels, tree stumps and wooden crates. These Hello Critter goats also serve as hiking companions, muses for creative writing workshops, models for life drawing classes, co-creators in Goat Improv workshops and Sound Bath Therapy Sessions. In our class, the happy Hello Critter goats served as our very own miniature masseuses by strategically distributing their weight to accompany our poses- talk about deep-tissue!
During the hour-long yoga class, Michelle Tritten, also known as the “goat mother,” and her four rescue goats cheerfully trotted up and down the aisle of mats, moving from yogi to yogi, popping up onto our backs and shoulders and scampering underneath our legs and bellies while receiving treats for their gymnastic efforts.
Tabletop and downward-facing dog were among the most common positions taken during the class as they made for the perfect platform for the goats to mount. Each goat also wore horn and hoof covers and safety tape to cushion their landing. Aside from a few minor heat-building poses, simple stretches and goat-weighted back massages, the class enjoyed some playful mat nibbles, a few cuddles and lots of laughs.
Contrastingly to most yoga classes, goat yoga doesn’t place such a seriousness on refining your yoga practice, but rather aims to inspire a go-with-the-flow nature and to bring out your inner child. Much of life is taken too seriously, and even within our own yoga practice we can become rigid if we don’t remain open and mindful. These funny farm animal friends help bring a lighthearted disposition to the day and combine the stress-reducing benefits of animal therapy with the calming nature of a simple yet strategic yoga practice.
Goat yoga is offered throughout the country on farms, in yoga studios, classrooms and more, but if you happen to be near Rancho Palos Verdes, Calif., I highly suggest the South Bay Botanical Gardens’ Goats, Yoga & Mimosas (G.Y.M.), for some fun, laughs, yoga… and a class of champagne or two.