The Messy Magic of Goat Yoga
Updated: Aug 22
After several art adventures, I made it to an overdue yoga adventure a few weeks ago and this time there were goats!
In early 2022, I was teaching online when one of my English students told me he had gone to a goat yoga class with his daughter. I loved the sound of that even before I made the shift to becoming a yoga instructor and have been longing to try it ever since.
My experience on a Sunday trip taught me that goats and yoga go together in surprising ways. I even found a shirt in my drawer that fit the occasion.
I do wonder who ever thought to put goats and yoga together for the first time? I think some of the charm of it is in the sounds of the words themselves. Both have that low /o/ vowel sound that I've long heard people find soothing. In fact, I've read that one of the reasons Margaret Wise Brown found such success with her picture book Goodnight Moon has to do with the number of low vowels she uses in her verses.
Good night, room. Good night, moon.
Good night, cow jumping over the moon.
The long /o/ sound and the lovely back of the throat /g/ that exist both in the words goat and yoga, making a soothing pair. I suppose I'm biased because I have loved languages for so long, but I suspect many are drawn to the combination of words unconsciously.
I have always thought that yoga is at its best when we smile a little or a lot while we practice. That's often the best way to deal with the discomfort that can come with trying new poses and practices that you are bound to mess up at first. Happily, it's almost impossible to be around baby goats without smiling if you like animals in the slightest.
The group of us on the day I went to practice laughed out loud. Often. The goats wandered among us as we set up our mats and the whole class was buzzing as we awkwardly made our space near where the goats wanted to be. They tromped across us. They made themselves comfortable on our mats so we had no room. One walked on a yogi's back. (I wasn't sure if that would be comfortable or painful! The yoga practitioner didn't say and mostly laughed, but I think it was a little of both.)
Yoga is often messy because we come to it as ourselves. The poses almost never look the way we imagine they should. We fall out of tree pose and have to get back into it again. We have to work with our bodies where they are rather than where we want them to be.
The goats helped us with letting go of perfection right at the start. They marched around and left poop pellets on our mats. One even peed on a yogi's mat. It was not exactly the sort of thing you might want for every practice but everyone in the group was able to laugh it off, turn over their mats, or go get a new one if the mess was too much.
This was also one of the few times I've practiced yoga outside. The adventure was worth it just for the experience of the grass, trees, and water nearby while I stretched and balanced on my mat. Outside is messier and has a magic all its own.
The brilliant goat herders who offered the yoga in their beautiful outdoor space had fed the young goats before we started the practice.
This meant that the kids soon settled in for their naps like all babies do when their bellies are full. By the end of the practice, each yoga practitioner had a sleeping goat on or near them. We lay in svasana, utterly relaxed next to the critters who had fallen into lovely food comas.
Something about working with animals is very grounding and helps many of us. I've experienced the calming effect when I worked with my Labrador in a senior center through a Pet Partners therapy program; when I worked as a volunteer with Little Bit Therapeutic Riding Center for equine therapy in Woodinville, WA; and in one remarkable experience with my son and library dogs. He discovered the program through the picture book Madeline Finn and the Library Dog by the fantastic writer and illustrator Lisa Papp.
Both goats and yoga are therapeutic. The mess, the calm, the laughter, and even the nature of the sounds in their names work a sort of magic.
If you'd like to try goat yoga, I would recommend doing a bit of research first. After my adventure, I worried a bit about what happens to all those kids as they grow older. The place I went to did not respond when I asked them about this, but I did find this original Goat Yoga place that talked about their practices for the goats. I wish I had thought to look and ask after the animals before I went.
A word adventure will be next for me. I'm hunting around for a book signing or some other such thing. Please drop me a line if you have ideas!