Above: Lainey Morse cuddles a goat.
Lainey Morse certainly didn't expect to become, as she puts it, a "Goat Yoga mogul." But a cute idea to host a yoga class at her farm in Albany, Oregon, while baby goats pranced around the mats has turned into a phenomenon with a more than 500-person wait list.
"Blown away. I'm blown away. Goat yoga ... who knew? Every day, something crazier happens," says Morse, who is stunned that the Goat Yoga classes she hosts on her farm are attracting interest from Alaska to Australia. Morse, 44, a marketing professional who is now pursuing Goat Yoga full-time, says the idea for the class came from a yoga teacher mom who attended a child's birthday party at her farm. Word got out not long after the first class in July, when Morse sent some "cute" Goat Yoga photos to Modern Farmer magazine, and from there, it "absolutely snowballed," she says, with even The New York Times coming out to the farm to figure out just what's so special about Goat Yoga (the Times article has yet to be published). "I think probably right now everybody is stressed out with politics and everything going on ... this is a story that's a happy distraction," Morse theorizes.
The Story Behind the Goat Yoga Phenomenon
So what IS so special about Goat Yoga? No, the goats don't actually do poses, but they do stretch and sometimes it looks like they're doing Downward-Facing Dog, Morse says (but they're not, she adds with a laugh). Morse, who only recently started practicing yoga, got diagnosed last year with Sjogren's syndrome, an autoimmune disease that causes extreme fatigue and affects the lungs and brain. Her goats helped get her through it. "It was really tough for me last year ... spending time in my field with my goats was just such therapy for me. It's really hard to be sad and depressed when you have baby goats jumping around you," she says.
Animal therapy is at the heart of Morse's Goat Yoga classes, which are taught by Heather Davis. "One lady had stage 4 cancer and said nothing had helped her heal more than Goat Yoga," Morse says. Plus, the classes are fun. "We've heard of Laughter Yoga ... I think it adds to that aspect of it. Yoga connects you with your mind, body, and soul, and if you do it out in the middle of nature in a field, in beautiful surroundings, and you add goats, which are friendly, social, and loving, and sit down next to people on their mats ... people are so happy. After class I always say, 'Was it as cool as you thought it was going to be?' And almost everyone says, 'This was magical. It was amazing.' It's partnering a great yoga class with nature and cute animals." The class is on trend, too, with Meowga, Doga, Llama'ste and horseback yoga recently making headlines.
What Really Happens In Goat Yoga?
Heather Davis, who teaches the all-levels, vinyasa-style Goat Yoga classes, says that like Morse, she had no idea Goat Yoga was going to be such a big hit. "What I can guess is that the experience of being with the goats and in this idyllic farm with a beautiful view of the mountains and the sunset ... it brings yoga to everybody. People that have said, 'I would never do yoga' are willing to try it with goats ... it takes the pretense out of it." Even if you're anxious about not having what you may think of as a "yoga body" or if you've never done yoga before, Davis believes Goat Yoga allows people to experience something new and the joy of being on the farm with the goats. "They're so playful, curious, and fun to be around. It makes it more than a yoga class -- it’s an experience," she says.
And since it's hard to be too serious when baby goats are joining you in Warrior I, Davis incorporates playfulness and humor into her classes. "I don’t think it’s silly. People say it sounds like Portlandia [the sketch comedy series that spoofs Portland, Oregon]. It's not goofy or silly, but it's certainly fun. When the goats choose to snuggle up next to you when you’re lying in Savasana, that's the best." Davis adds that she and Morse don't force the goats to be present during classes—they choose to join practitioners on their mats.
Each Goat Yoga class is three hours long: one hour to hang out with the goats, an hour of yoga, and then what Morse calls "goat happy hour," where people play with the goats and take selfies. Morse had planned on waiting until springtime to hold the next class (since it's getting too cold for outdoor yoga), but due to demand, she's decided to give barn goat yoga a try later this month. She's also planning Goat Yoga retreats and goat therapy for veterans, people with disabilities, people suffering from depression, people suffering from illness, etc. "I didn’t even know I could dream something like this ... I’m super excited," she says.
Goat Yoga classes are $30. To get on the wait list for the next class, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.