Every day for four years, on my drive to and from teaching my regular classes at the local yoga studio, I would pass by a farm with giant signs that let the world know that “GOAT YOGA HAPPENS HERE!” And everyday I would exclaim “F***ing goat yoga. It’s NOT yoga!”
My husband, friends, family, colleagues, and peers thought it was hilarious how I loathed goat yoga.
For starters, I’d tell them as they chuckled at me, I can’t imagine getting a thrill out of any experience where there’s the potential to be pooped on by a farm animal. And do the goats even like all the people clamoring for their attention? I’d imagine they’d much rather be munching on things instead of frolicking on top of humans.
It took about two years for me to understand the actual reason why goat yoga was harmful as a whole, and not just something that annoyed me. I had done a lot of listening and learning, and had understood just how much yoga had been appropriated and harmed by Westernization. During that time, I realized that goat yoga stretches the ancient tradition of yoga and yogic principles to appeal to Western consumerism. In other words, it’s cultural appropriation.
Goat yoga doesn’t embody yoga philosophy
I have never been to a goat yoga class, or a Puppy Yoga class, or any yoga class that involves any sort of animal other than practicing alongside my feral toddler. But I assume that goat yoga does not center the philosophical principles of yoga. After all, any offering that uses yoga as a selling tactic for something completely unrelated to the culture from which it emerged, or as a way to attract different clientele to your farm, brewery (think: happy hour yoga), or business disrespects yoga’s roots.
I also assume that asana isn’t being practiced mindfully (or even safely), because the conversations I have had with other teachers and students in my circle who have been to a goat yoga event led me to understand that most of the time is spent trying to interact with a goat rather than move your body and breathe with intention. How can you turn inward when there are so many distractions happening around you?
Yoga is not a fun activity that you “do.” It’s a practice that yes, can be really fun and full of lila (play). But reducing yoga into an add-on experience for any random recreational activity you enjoy—not just one that involves playing with barnyard friends—isn’t truly yoga.
What if I do yoga at home with my pet?
“But wait,” you might say. “I practice yoga with my dog/cat at home. Am I culturally appropriating yoga?” No. You have a special and sacred bond with your pet. (So if you happen to have a pet goat and practice yoga with said pet goat, then you have nothing to worry about.) And no one is profiting when your dog or cat climbs between your legs while you’re in Downward-Facing Dog.
I know that it sucks to hear that things that have been normalized into our culture—things that some of us have a great time doing—are causing harm. But if yoga teaches us anything, it’s awareness.
Yoga is such a beautiful practice; it cracks us wide open and encourages us to transform our everyday life into a mindful practice. We can’t keep throwing yoga into every brewery and barnyard and ignore the fact that yoga wasn’t meant to come with a pint of beer or a petting zoo. Let’s take everything we are learning about the ways in which our culture has harmed an ancient tradition and its people, and let’s start making reparations by stopping things like goat yoga.