On the first hot day of the west coast summer, I drove 30 minutes out from the city of Victoria to a lavender farm near the ferry terminal to try yoga with goats. I paid $25 each for my partner and myself at the Victoria Lavender Farm’s gift shop, resisting the urge to buy handmade lavender soap or a goat yoga t-shirt (complete with a cross-legged and, inexplicably, cross-eyed goat), and then walked to a paddock where 25 or so people (mostly women in athleisure gear) had gathered.
Everyone was petting, or trying to pet, the goats. I found myself feeling a little nervous. Will the goats like me? Will I connect with them? All the goats were occupied with being pet by other people, there were actually no goats available. I waited, anxiously, and then turned around just as a little goat leaned its head into my calf, asking for pets. I felt accepted.
what happens in goat yoga stays in goat yoga
This was the last class of the season at the lavender farm, as the baby Nigerian Dwarf goats were starting to get too big to climb on people. The farm has six females, about 30 – 40 lbs and 20 inches high, and about 10 babies. The male billy goats aren’t around for the classes as they tend to be larger, with big horns and a strong smell.
My partner and I laid out our mats on the grassy area in the paddock, trying to avoid scattered goat poop. We found a good spot in the shade below the giant oak trees, then realized that we could smell a nearby giant pile of dog crap. We moved our mats, and pitifully watched as the class filled up and people had no option but to unroll their mats near the crap.
We were there for the goats, but the real stars of the show were three white fluffy Great Pyrenees puppies, who bounded between yoga mats and enthusiastically gave a personal welcome to each attendee. The goats huddled around the entrance to the pen, not expressing too much interest in the eager people sitting on rubber mats, waiting to get their yoga on.
Then the goats started bleating excitedly, as the lavender farm owner approached the pen, looking like a true goat farmer/lavender entrepreneur with his grey beard, worn overalls, and floppy hat. He walked through the gate with a bucket of food in hand, goats following him as he sprinkled an oat mixture through the haphazard arrangement of mats. A tiny woman with curly hair told us to sit cross-legged with our eyes closed, but many of us were following the goats, awaiting their attention while they scrounged for scraps of oats, walking across yoga mats and over legs.
downward facing goat pose
The practice was gentle and easy going. A goat definitely bit my toe while I was in downward facing dog. I was getting over a stomach flu so I mostly laid on my mat, and it didn’t seem to matter. The goats were more interested in the food than the yoga-doing people, although they weren’t unsocial or completely disinterested. I only saw one instance of what’s become a classic goat yoga trope: a goat climbing up on a person in child’s pose. A goat definitely pissed on someone’s mat.
There was a sense of anticipation, as everyone followed the goat’s movements and silently vied for their attention. It reminded me of the time I went to a cat cafe, and the cats mostly ignored the customers who desperately reached for them as they walked past their tables. The three gorgeous puppies fell in love with a guy in the back row and he just ended up stretched out on his mat with them, taking selfies.
goat yoga: #trending hard
The goat yoga trend falls on the heels of doga (dog yoga), cat yoga, beer yoga, and other bizarre pop culture yoga hybrids. Originating in Albany, Oregon, goat yoga burst onto the scene in August 2016. Unlike the history of both traditional and popular yoga, there is no ambiguity about the creation of goat yoga. Its founding is credited to Lainey Morse, a freelance photographer and farmer who has claimed the ‘original goat yoga’ moniker on FB and now seems to make a living with a line of goat yoga products and $10 classes that have a 600-person wait list.
Goat yoga also follows a general goat zeitgeist over the past few years. Goats are basically the internet’s new cats. This article gives a little cultural background on the rise in popularity of goats, citing the reason being linked to more internet users in countries like Uganda and Brazil, and the greater diversity of the internet.
Factor in the non-stop rising popularity of yoga and the pop culture tendency to merge yoga with almost anything, it’s no surprise that somebody would come up with goat yoga. And overall, goat yoga is pretty great: you’re outside, goats are fun, you can’t help but giggle when they’re scampering around. Goats, like most animals, are therapeutic and their presence is uplifting, which for many people is the purpose of yoga. But from my point of view, since single-minded focus and impenetrable concentration are absent from the practice, goat yoga barely qualifies as yoga. It did remind me, however, that I need more goats in my life.
Featured image via Yoga at Victoria Lavender Facebook page, photographer unknown.