Sharon Gaughan, MS, RYT
Essential Journey Yoga
Sitting in front of my chair yogis just before starting class, I announced (as I proudly pointed to my new goat yoga tank top), “I took my first Goat Yoga class this past weekend!” One of my faithful students, sitting in the front row, looked at me with a straight face and a sincere expression, and asked, “Why?”
I laughed and tried to explain my “why” – but I probably didn’t answer very well, as I certainly wasn’t expecting the question. It seemed obvious! Or was it?
And so, prompted by Natalie’s question, I have been asking myself since then, “why?” Why did I attend my first goat yoga class in early July, then two weeks later come back to attend two more? And why am I so over-the-moon excited that I will soon have the opportunity to teach two goat yoga classes later in August? Why?
After some thought, here is my attempt to answer the question, “why?”
It starts with my childhood. I grew up a city girl, but I was always a country-girl-wanna-be. I unsuccessfully tried to convince my Chicago fireman father that he should buy a farm and become a farmer, so that I could continue my childhood as the female version of Timmy on the television series "Lassie". As a child, that was my version of a dream-life, and I guess it still is.
I’ve always been an animal lover, and I’ve long had a soft spot in my heart for goats. At the petting zoos that my parents took me to, I always seemed to gravitate toward the goats. To me – and to many others – goats are fun, goats are personable, goats are affectionate, goats are funny. And baby goats are the best combination of all those traits.
As an adult, I’ve worked on several farms in different capacities through the years – and, while I love to get my hands dirty with the farm crops, I always gravitated toward the farm animals – goats, if there were any, but also chickens, sheep, horses.
And meanwhile as an adult, I also discovered yoga – taking my first yoga class as an undergrad at the University of Montana, and finally becoming a yoga instructor much later in life.
Combining yoga with various animals (dogs/puppies, cats/kittens, rabbits/bunnies, and now goats/kids) is a fairly recent development in the yoga world. Oftentimes the purpose is to find adoptive homes for the puppies, kittens, bunnies – but that’s not usually the purpose for goat yoga. Not many folks have the facilities to be able to adopt a goat (or two, since, as herd animals, goats need companionship).
In goat yoga, the purpose is more therapeutic. Watching goats, petting goats, cuddling goats, perhaps feeding goats – all good things from the perspective of the typical animal lover. In fact, petting an animal – pretty much any furry, cute and cuddly animal – has been shown to evoke a relaxation response in most people. It can lower our blood pressure. It’s good for those that suffer from anxiety. It’s pleasurable. It’s fun.
Yoga is also considered relaxing – more or less so, depending on the type of yoga class you choose. But to combine some basic yoga poses with the playful antics of goats, is to allow the mind and the body to forget whatever else might be troubling the soul.
Will it be the best yoga you’ve ever done? Not likely. The goats are definitely a distraction from the yoga – perhaps an actual physical distraction, but at minimum a visual distraction. But they are a most welcome distraction. Reaching out from your Downward-facing Dog pose, to pet a real-life upward-facing goat, brings a smile to the face and a warmth to the heart.
Why goat yoga? For me, and for many animal-loving yogis like me, I can’t think of any reason why not!
If you would like to join me for either or both of the goat yoga classes that I will be leading at Kamins Farm as a guest instructor, please visit the Kamins Farm Facebook page to preregister.
Saturday, August 19th (10:00-11:00 a.m.) -> Goat Yoga Mat Class
Sunday, August 20th (6:00-7:00 p.m.) -> Goat Yoga Chair Class
Preregister soon, as these classes fill quickly!