| GET YOUR GOAT

Is it an ex­er­cise class? Is it a pet­ting zoo? It’s goat yoga! One fam­ily shows us what this fun (and funny!) fit­ness trend is all about.

FamilyFun - - CONTENTS - BY HELEN OLSSON PHO­TOG­RA­PHY BY JU­LIA VANDENOEVE­R

And do Down­ward Dog. The scoop on goat yoga

Iclose my eyes, press my palms into my mat, and stretch into Down­ward Dog. Birds twit­ter over­head and the wind rus­tles the leaves of nearby ap­ple trees. The fam­ily and friends I’ve brought along to this out­door yoga class are in var­i­ous states of mind­ful­ness. My foot­ballplay­ing 14-year-old son, Ai­dan, is do­ing his best to stretch his calves, but his Down­ward Dog looks a lit­tle more like he’s poised on the 50-yard line. My hus­band, Jeff, keeps snap­ping pho­tos with his phone. My 12-year-old daugh­ter, Anya, is sit­ting qui­etly in a Lo­tus pose (more criss, cross, ap­ple­sauce) in a cir­cle with half a dozen of her sixth-grade besties. They are all fawn­ing over a goat. They’ve even braided its chin hair. Wait. Goats? Yes. Goats. In goat yoga, the lat­est (or maybe first-ever) fit­ness craze to hit the farm, prac­ti­tion­ers un­furl mats in a fenced-off field and flow through their yoga poses while a col­lec­tion of baby goats romps around play­fully. The goats, which are very so­cial an­i­mals, cozy up to the stu­dents, seek­ing at­ten­tion. If you’re in a Child’s pose, they might crawl on top of your back. And they’ll prob­a­bly poop and pee on some mats. (Best to be pre­pared—and re­ally it’s okay!) “Goats are veg­e­tar­ian; the poop is no big­gie,” says Taber Ward, yoga teacher, en­vi­ron­men­tal lawyer, and co­founder of Moun­tain Flower Goat Dairy, in Boul­der, CO. She’s lead­ing to­day’s ses­sion. The first goat-yoga class was held on No Re­grets Farm in Ore­gon’s Wil­lamette Val­ley in 2016 af­ter a vis­it­ing yoga teacher asked to host a class there. Owner Lainey Morse agreed, but in a mo­ment of epiphany, she in­sisted that the goats be in on it. Af­ter all, re­search shows that con­tact with an­i­mals such as horses and dogs can of­fer ther­a­peu­tic ben­e­fits to peo­ple. So why not goats? “It’s hard to be de­pressed when you’re sur­rounded by baby farm an­i­mals!” says Morse. Be­fore long, she had a wait­ing list 2,400 deep for what she coined “goat yoga.”

Moun­tain Flower Goat Dairy, one of dozens of farms na­tion­wide that are now host­ing these whim­si­cal classes, also sees goats as ther­apy. Classes of­ten at­tract stu­dents with dis­abil­i­ties or folks who are new to the prac­tice. “Goat yoga is ac­ces­si­ble,” says Ward. “It’s less in­tim­i­dat­ing. It’s eas­ier to lose your ego, to get out­side of your own self.” And look­ing around me, I see that this proves true. To­day, I don’t care that I can’t do a Crow pose. The kids are game to at­tempt more com­plex yoga moves, with­out any frus­tra­tion. And Jeff, who has never taken a yoga class in his life, is per­fectly happy do­ing Sun Sa­lu­ta­tions and flick­ing goat pel­lets off his mat. (It’s re­ally not as gross as it sounds!) We drop into War­rior Two. “Try to con­nect with the earth,” says Ward. This seems easy enough, since we can lit­er­ally feel the grass, rocks, and dirt un­der our feet. And some of us have a friend at our feet too. The goat who has set­tled onto the mat of my daugh­ter’s pal is named Schaden­freude. “It’s a word that means ‘tak­ing plea­sure

“It’s hard to be de­pressed when you’re sur­rounded by baby farm an­i­mals!” says Lainey Morse.

in some­body else’s mis­for­tune,’ ” Ward ex­plains. It’s not very yoga-like, but ev­ery­thing to­day is un­ex­pected. As Ai­dan leans into a Prayer Twist, a goat am­bles in for a nuz­zle. Trans­fixed, he looks deeply into the goat’s eyes and ruf­fles the fur be­hind its ears. What home­work stress? And if you want to talk mommy stress, con­sider this: Last night, I hosted a sleep­over for a gag­gle of tweenagers for Anya’s birth­day. Imag­ine the chaos! The girls, who’d gig­gled into the wee hours, are now mel­low and con­tem­pla­tive. Ev­ery­body’s blood pres­sure is down—mine in­cluded. I’m sure of it. For us, the class is also a chance to get a dose of na­ture in an ur­ban set­ting. Af­ter class, we’ll get a tour of the farm and a taste of fresh goat’s milk. But first, Taber tells us to take a deep breath in and hold it. We col­lec­tively ex­hale, and then we hear laugh­ter. A goat has moved onto Jeff’s mat and won’t take no for an an­swer. For­get Shavasana—it’s cud­dle time!

Baby an­i­mals make ev­ery­thing more fun! Find a class near you at Goatyoga.net.

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