PLYMOUTH -- Fancy having a goat amble across your back or stand on your shoulders? They say it’s a great way to soothe a troubled spirit and relax tight muscles.
Goat yoga. It’s a thing. And here’s why, “they” explain:
“It’s so unexpected,” observes Joanna Sharapan, program manager at Greater Plymouth Community Center. “The goats are usually baby or pygmy goats…super small. They’re quirky, goofy and hilarious. Honestly, when you’re doing yoga and watching how carefree the goats are, it’s easy for you to forget about your problems, stresses and other things weighing on your mind. Goats live in the moment. Interacting with them allows you to be in the moment, too.”
GPCC initially offered goat yoga as part of its May schedule, and the class was so popular, the Plymouth Township rec center added four more. At press time, sessions on July 18 and Aug. 1 at 9 a.m. were still accepting students. Sessions at 10:15 a.m. on both days were already full.
If interested, “bring your own mat, towel or blanket…goats provided.”
“Renew your inner spirit with a fun, relaxing, giggle-filled goat yoga class at Harriet Wetherill Park,” GPCC organizers continue. “A triple threat to de-stress, (goat yoga) is a great way to break from your normal mindset.”
The class costs $40 a person (five-years-old and up), is open to yogis of every skill level and promises a “45-minute beginner-friendly goat-centric yoga class and 15-minute goat snuggle-picture time with nine to 15 baby (or) miniature goats.”
Sharapan describes May’s inaugural class as “awesome.”
And diverse. In fact, she’s convinced, surrendering your chakra’s well-being to goats is good for what ails you even if you don’t know your Mula Bandha from your Uddiyana Bandha.
“We had a lot of parent and child duos,” Sharapan says. “We had a few groups of girlfriends, and we had individuals who were just checking it out. All different levels of yoga participants, too…mostly beginners or first-timers. Honestly, the highlight isn’t the yoga. It’s the goats.”
All of which reportedly goes back to 2016 and the goats owned by an Oregon farmer named Lainey Morse. As the story goes, Morse was battling depression induced by a divorce and autoimmune disease diagnosis but found comfort hanging out with her goats. Eventually, some of her pals began joining her. One of them was a yoga instructor who came up with the idea of expanding their informal “goat happy hours” to actual classes that merged Morse’s friendly goats with downward dogs. The idea took off, and “Caprine vinyasa” was born.
Today, the combination of goats and yoga in the great outdoors is recognized as a form of animal-assisted therapy both here and abroad. That said, are the goats used for yoga classes gentle? Well, the pros concede, they might nibble on participants’ zippers or buttons; however, they’re unlikely to head-butt anyone but one another and that, mostly at feeding time. Will they give participants parasites? Not likely, enthusiasts say, despite a certain episode of TV’s “9-1-1.” Will they, um, pee or poop on participants? They might.
According to the folks who run GPCC’s goat yoga classes – Pipersville-based Namaaaste Goat Yoga:
“Expect some accidents to occur. The goats are farm animals, which poop and pee whenever it suits them, and from time to time, they do poop on your mat…(although) you don’t have to do anything about it; we maintain a team ready to quickly clean up any such incidents. Goat poop is not gross or messy. It is small pellets that are easily brushed away. You should be prepared though and dress accordingly.”
Namaaaste Goat Yoga owners Ed and Eileen Bowden also raise chickens, roosters, turkeys and rabbits at their Bucks County farm and “focus on regenerating the soil.” The Bowdens included miniature breed goats in their animal mix so their “seven children could safely and wholly participate in their everyday care.”
“They’ve been terrific to deal with,” Sharapan says. “We got such a positive response from everyone who participated in May…we’ve brought them back by popular demand.”
GPCC is located at 2910 Jolly Road in Plymouth Meeting. The center’s upcoming goat yoga sessions will take place in the township’s Harriet Wetherill Park on Butler Pike. Additional information is available at www.plymouthcommunitycenter.org and www.namaaastegoatyoga.com.