As a proudly-proclaimed Goat Washer—a name my parents coined after joking that I find so much enjoyment in seemingly strange activities that if someone were to create a “Goat Washing Club,” I would eagerly join and become its president—I often feel compelled to uphold my title by trying new activities of all varieties.
When I began seeing pictures flooding social media of people contorting their bodies as goats perched atop their backs, I decided that of all the wacky fads to hit the internet, goat yoga might just be my personal favorite.
Inspired by a friend who recently began teaching animal-assisted yoga in Scottsdale, Arizona, Tanna Torkelson, a dietitian and the owner of Threads of Wellness Yoga in Lorain, Ohio, created the course this summer to bring this unique practice to Lorain County. The class itself takes place at Downs on the Farm—a non-profit organization located in Amherst, Ohio, that provides Animal Assisted Activities (AAA) for individuals with special needs or disabilities.
While goat yoga began only recently on the West Coast, the idea behind Animal Assisted Activities actually developed in the 1800s when doctors in psych wards discovered that patients who otherwise had a hard time connecting with people experienced better relationships with animals.
“It’s so hard to get out of your day, step into your practice and just be right here to enjoy this moment,” Tanna said. “With goats, there’s no barrier. They just expedite that process completely!”
I have attended a handful of yoga classes, but I’m certainly no yogi—I was planning on borrowing a yoga mat from one of my friends so I could at least look like I practice more frequently! As it turns out, this course actually requires that you use an old blanket or towel in lieu of a mat.
“One or two goats realized that they could start nibbling on the mats,” Tanna said, laughing as she acknowledged her concern that the goats would hurt themselves if they accidentally ingested the material. “We tried to cover the mats with towels and blankets, but they began digging their noses under the layers so they could keep tearing apart the mats underneath!”
If you think that’s the most adorable thing you’ve ever heard, brace yourself for a cuteness overload.
After the participants have a chance to set up their blankets and begin stretching, the goat invasion begins. I quickly realized that I would be doing less meditating and stretching and more laughing and picture-taking as these furry yogis began breaking down every previously-established personal space boundary in the room.
If you’re looking for a hardcore yoga class, keep an open mind and prepare for a few distractions. The smaller goats like to jump on people’s backs, and a few like to nibble on hair and clothing. But don’t worry– the goats are certainly more adorable than annoying, even when they evict you from your own towel…
…so don’t be afraid to spend the majority of the class petting the furry classmates.
(To clarify: Only pet the goats, not any particularly furry classmates who actually paid for the course.)
Yoga is hard work, especially when you spend the class jumping on tables and nibbling on people’s shirts. Toward the end of the class, Tanna gives the goats a well-deserved snack break.
“We don’t want this process to be abusive to the goats at all– we want them to keep enjoying it,” Tanna said, noting that participants have ten minutes to snuggle and take pictures with goats after the class before they lead the goats back to the barn to be bottle fed. “These classes shouldn’t be a time when they’re going to be starved or deprived of what they need.”
But what goes in must eventually come out.
While there’s a cleanup crew armed and ready with a bottle of disinfectant, towels and a broom to immediately mop up any accidents throughout the class, I managed to find myself in the right place at the wrong time during one goat’s potty break– a soggy reminder that yes, goats are indeed farm animals, no matter how skilled they are at yoga.
It was a little gross, but definitely cute.
Tanna’s enthusiasm reflects throughout this laid-back and course, making it the perfect beginner class for people who have little to no yoga experience. I don’t think I stopped smiling throughout the entire class, which left me feeling more relaxed than I did at the start of the evening– a goatal– err, total win in my book.
For a fun yoga class that’s the G.O.A.T. (greatest of all time, of course!), visit www.threadsofwellness.com/yogawithgoats-amherst-yoga to sign up for a class.