Goat yoga: the greatest – or passing fad?
We have had anti-gravity yoga, laughter yoga and doga. Now goats are getting in on the action, too. The main difference between yoga and goat yoga: while you are holding your best downward dog, a goat might stand on your back. It is a growing trend that started in Oregon in the US, and has been embraced by celebrities such as Khloe Kardashian.
Donna McCheyne, who has been teaching goat yoga classes on a farm in Devon for the past two years, believes the appeal lies in the calming effects the animals have on participants and the laughter their antics inspire. “We connect with the animals. It helps to release any cortisol that’s in the body. It also increases your happy hormones,” McCheyne says.
Carolyn Cowan, a yoga instructor from London, says: “Having to work harder with a creature moving on your back is actually probably really good for your core. And, I think the amount of laughter has to be really good for your core, too. I think, overall, I’d look on it as a fabulous adventure.”
Not everyone is enthusiastic about the new trend. Sara Teiger has been practising iyengar yoga
– a more traditional branch of yoga – for 15 years and thinks goat yoga is a pointless fad. “It’s not about the exercise or the metal health benefits, it’s just about the social media that gets generated afterwards,” Teiger says. “I’m doing a downward dog and I’ve got a goat on my arse, but so what? You’re not going to find someone who goes twice a week before work.”
Teiger also says she is concerned about the welfare of the goats and that they are being used as a prop for people’s amusement. McCheyne insists the goats participate willingly. “We don’t bribe them, we don’t pick them up and place them on our bodies or anything, but if they’re interested, they’ll come by and have a sniff or a little bit of a nibble. They might chew your hair or your yoga mat. And they’ll just come around for a cuddle, really,” McCheyne adds.
Marie Spreckley, the owner of London Weightloss Clinic and a teacher of barre (a combination of yoga, dance and pilates), does not think the trend is conducive to the purpose of yoga. “Yoga is all about mindfulness, relaxation and concentration. You can’t do it while having an erratic animal around. In addition to that, you might injure yourself.”
While Cowan acknowledges that goat yoga will be a passing fancy for most, she loves the idea of it. “You’re just going to be laughing and smiling all the way through. So, I don’t think it’s going to take you to a specifically internal zen calm, but I think through positive connecting hormones, you’re going to come out of it feeling absolutely fantastic. I really want to have a go.”