While I am a firm believer in the possibility of finding yoga in, or insinuating it into, just about everything (including yoga with weights and barre and fitness classes), I had long ago pegged goat yoga as a joke. So I must admit that before I signed up for a goat yoga class (expressly for the purpose of writing about how ridiculous and un-yoga-like it was), I had this title in mind: “I Tried Goat Yoga So You Don’t Have To.” But somewhere along the way, I had a bit of a change of heart.
I am not exactly sure when I began drawing the distinction between what is truly yoga and what is just preposterous. But I believe it was somewhere between the advent of classes like SUP yoga and yoga sculpt, which I tended to view as “still yoga,” and the emergence of others I did not—such as naked yoga, dog yoga, and VOGA (voguing plus fashion plus yoga).
Then came goat yoga.
I learned about a local goat yoga class when a teacher of said class was looking for a last-minute sub. (I was surprised to learn there was no specific “goat yoga training” or special preparation required to lead a class, at least not where I live). If I had been available, I may have considered teaching—just out of curiosity. When, a few months later, I decided to sign up for the class, I was surprised to discover it had been sold out more than a week in advance. I emailed the organizer, asking to be put on a wait list, and was told to just show up and pay the $30 (yes, you read that right) when I got there.
It was a particularly hot and humid day on the Gulf Coast of Florida, and I arrived early to scope things out. Luckily the class was in a shaded barn, and I was able to get a spot near a fan. The organizer informed us that the money from the class would go to both supporting her non-profit organic community farm and providing food for the goats. This is kind of like seva, I told myself, which offered me some peace of mind. I could get behind helping a local farmer grow organic produce and feed her goats.
When the teacher arrived and asked how many of us were new to goat yoga, all but one woman raised their hands. The teacher said she’d lead us through some sun salutations, and then the goats would arrive and we could take photos with them. But before she could finish her sentence—and before we could finish even one sun salutation—in walked the goats. They were brown, white, black and white, and mostly knee-high or taller, though there was one itty-bitty goat even smaller than my 20-month-old son. The photo op began.
Some people did a few down dogs and maybe managed a warrior II on one side or the other. I found myself cranking my neck around in down dog to make sure I wasn’t missing any great goat yoga photo ops. Then I became distracted by my son, Elias, who was walking toward one of the youngest goats. Elias is a sweet kid, but he sometimes shows his affection by hitting—so I ran over to tell him to pet the goat gently. (And to play it safe, I had my husband take him from that point.)
People were smiling, laughing, and getting out of their heads. While it wasn’t what I would typically consider “yoga,” it was still a positive experience.
After about 50 minutes into the two-hour class, the instructor stopped attempting to teach. It wasn’t as if we were doing much yoga anyway, so it was fine by me. We spent the rest of the time holding the goats and taking photos with them while the organizers cleaned up goat poop. Despite the lack of asana (and despite the odor of hay and goat feces), I was beginning to like this goat yoga stuff more and more. People were smiling, laughing, and getting out of their heads. While it wasn’t what I would typically consider “yoga,” it was still a positive experience.
And perhaps best of all, I loved the age diversity of the class. It doesn’t get much more “all levels” than a class filled with toddlers, college kids, and middle-aged (and up) yogis. There were beginners, those who practiced yoga regularly, and even a couple who mentioned they’d never done yoga before in their lives (in fact, I loaned them some extra mats I had stashed in my car).
I asked some college girls to take a photo of me doing crow pose next to a goat. One of them thought that was cool and asked if I could do a headstand. She said she wanted to do a headstand too but was afraid she might fall on the goats. I offered to assist. Afterward, she thanked me for helping her learn how to hold a headstand. She also asked me if I followed Beach Yoga Girl on Instagram.
A woman who looked to be about 70 was sitting in the corner holding the tiniest goat of the bunch, and beaming from ear to ear. I caught her eye, and she offered up the baby for me to hold. I immediately felt my maternal instinct kick in as I rocked the little goat. I left the class soon after—covered with hay and dander and sneezing, but feeling that maybe there can be (at least a little) yoga in everything.
Honestly, I don’t plan on returning to goat yoga, and this experience was not enough to make me consider giving naked yoga or VOGA a try. But stepping over my personal “not yoga” line did allow me to grow. And I would encourage anyone else with strong opinions as to what is and isn’t yoga to expand their personal comfort zones by trying a class they’ve deemed trendy or ridiculous. They just might make some unique connections and find joy in the unexpected—as did I. They might find that something that falls outside their definition of “yoga” is still worth experiencing.