By Doug Graves
GROVEPORT, Ohio – File this under “workouts you can’t believe are an actual thing.”
Goat yoga, which is yoga practices in the presence of (and in tandem with) live goats, is the latest exercise to capture the imagination and Instagram feeds of city-slickers everywhere.
Taylor-made for the selfie set, each class allows one to do downward dog alongside barnyard goats in all their bleating, adorable glory. Yoga goats are baby goats, and when you get into tabletop, expect a goat to hop onto your back. They weigh just about 15 pounds, the perfect weight with which to plank.
“We offer yoga classes and we also have a herd of 200 goats,” said Katherine Harrison of Harrison Farms in Groveport, Ohio. “Not all goats become yoga goats. Most are bottle babies, looking for a cozy spot on a yoga mat.”
Harrison is entering her sixth season with goat yoga. Popularity of this event brings yogis back season after season.
“You can focus on the yoga and you can focus on the animals,” she said. “It’s an opportunity to choose your own adventure. We try to conduct a holistic, on-farm yoga experience and welcome yoga enthusiasts. We typically hold those classes in front of our huge red barn. There the chickens run around, the roosters crow, ducks wander about…AND we invite the goats to attend. Now and then there’s a little head-butting going on, but most of the time they lay up near the yogi’s mat.”
Harrison’s farm includes sheep, goats and chickens. She also opens her farm to college interns wanting to know more about farming, interested in animal handling or just basic agriculture skills.
Goat yoga is offered at other farms in the state. At Feels Like Home Farm in Kirtland, about 25 minutes east of Cleveland, it’s pretty difficult for visitors to leave without having loved on an animal or laughed at their antics.
“They’re just floating out the door afterward,” said yoga instructor Angela DeMichele. “You can’t leave without smiling.”
Alissa Miller is the owner of Feels Like Home Farm, where for the past four years she’s offered yoga and cuddle sessions with all kinds of adorable barnyard animals. One of her newest offerings is “Yoga with Piglets.” Piglets joining the yoga classes are Kunekunes, a small social breed from New Zealand.
“There’s a lot of research that shows animals can help your health,” Miller said. “Animals are accepting of people, and they relieve stress to the touch. Touching an animal helps increase endorphins and promotes a happy release of good hormones and releases anxiety.”
During the COVID-19 pandemic, Miller offered classes for two to 10 people at a time. She plans on holding similar size classes this year, too. Classes are held on the weekends.
With the hour-long yoga classes, participants can get their minds centered, work on different postures, practice mindfulness and breathing – but they can do it among the animals with plenty of breaks for cuddles and selfies.
“Being a small farmer, I feel any light I can shed on the farming community is a positive thing because farmers are really the backbone of our community,” Miller said. “And I’ve heard so many people come in from the city, and maybe they’ve never even seen a goat. So it’s helping people connect.”
The Boer makes up the backbone of Miller’s herd. She also has pygmy and myotonic (fainting) goats.
“A couple years after starting our breeding program, we started working with some local gyms and yoga studios to begin offering goat yoga classes on the farm,” Miller said.
It’s uncertain how this goat yoga trend all started or even where it started. Some say it began in Oregon in 2016, but others say it started in Netherlands 10 years ago. Regardless of its roots, goat yoga is catching on big time.
“I believe people want to connect with the animals and experience the outdoor world,” Harrison said. “I believe small farms speak to something within our nature about how we interact with animals. The more time I spend with my animals the more I understand my own place in the circle of life. And with goat yoga it’s a bit light-hearted at times and at times it’s a bit ridiculous.”
Harrison Farm (with its yoga classes) can be found at 5278 Berger Road in Groveport, Ohio (614-271-0304). Feels Like Home Farm is found at 10875 Sperry Road in Kirtland, Ohio (440-724-5121).