I Tried Goat Yoga. This is What I Think.

IMG_4674

On a recent trip to Las Vegas, I had the opportunity to do goat yoga, which is quite literally yoga with goats around you. Before taking the class, I was skeptical of this trend. It seemed really gimmicky, kind of fun, but at what cost? Was it harming the goats or the traditions of yoga?

I decided I needed to explore the trend and experience it first hand.

IMG_4504
A preview of goat yoga.

History of Goat Yoga

Goat yoga hopped onto the scene in 2015 and has been popular ever since. Lainey Morse, an Oregon resident and farm owner founded the first publicized goat yoga event. After dealing with some challenging life events, she began to host happy hours with baby goats to find and spread some happiness. This led to a woman asking to host a yoga class in the property, and goat yoga was serendipitously born. Since then, variations of goat yoga have been popping up around the country, all of which are finding an audience. As cute and seemingly innocuous as goat yoga sounds, the trend has caused controversy in the yoga community, especially in regards to disrespecting the tradition of yoga. I personally thought the event sounded weird, but I wanted to keep an open mind and see what the trend was all about.

 

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

The Class: What Went Down

The class was one-hour long in a beautiful park. The group started off corralled with mobile fencing, and after everyone had their mats in place, they were released. We all sat in a circle and the teacher sat in the middle. We began a yoga flow while the goats were wandering around the pen. Students are encouraged to participate in the yoga, or take some time out and just enjoy the goats. One thing is certain: goats do not care about  you or yoga.  They are looking for food, and any buttons on your clothing. The teacher occasionally handed out goat food to entice them to jump on your back and just hang out near you.

One thing is certain: goats do not care about you or yoga.

IMG_4675

Things I observed:

  1. The animal welfare is good.

The goats are treated well, and meet the standards of the Five Freedoms designated to assess animal welfare. They have access to food, movement, and water. This class was clearly not their first rodeo, and they were easily coaxed into hopping on backs. On an economic front, you are supporting the goats. Selfies with animals is a contentious topic, and one that I normally side on the “not necessary” side with. Taking photos with wild animals is not necessary, and often harmful to the animal subject. Goats, on the other hand, are domestic and are bred to need human care. Animals are awesome, and people may not have experience with them if they haven’t had the opportunity. In this sense, goat yoga offers a way to foster a learning experience and love for goats.

   2. It is all about the photos.

Would goat yoga exist without photos? Maybe, but the lure of a cute, unusual photo is a major draw. I’m not going to lie- this is the really gimmicky part of goat yoga. But in a world where photos are shared daily, a unique picture is desirable. Goats are awesome. They are cool animals and spending a class with them teaches you a little bit about their behaviors (and how their poop look like raisins). You can get a similar experience in a petting zoo, but the class makes you focus on the goats. It is rare that people have this kind of interaction with animals. Also, with a lot of bad stuff happening in the world, it can be nice to step outside of your normal yoga practice and do something different.

  1. It is not traditional.

This is pretty obvious by the name. You are encouraged to do yoga, but when cute baby goats surround you, your focus is usually going to be focused outward, often with your phone in hand in case a cute photo opportunity presents itself. Whether this should be called “yoga” is definitely debatable, but the marketing power of the word “yoga” is understandable from a business perspective. Does it honor the traditional philosophy of yoga? No.

  1. It will make you laugh.

This is by far the best part of goat yoga. I have never been in a yoga class where I laugh so much. You know the sometimes-awkward waiting period you have before a yoga class begins? That time is now filled with staring at goats or sneaking in a few pets. I also found it really easy to joke with people next to me. The event is social vs. personal, and this makes fun event.

  1. If you are new to yoga, it is not the best introduction to a yoga practice.

If you are interested in starting a yoga practice, I wouldn’t recommend goat yoga as the first choice. Yoga does require basic knowledge of postures, alignment and breathing techniques, and these are hard things to teach with goats around. But as a social event, goat yoga is great. It is all about the goats, and beginners should go to a class that helps them learn a solid yoga base.

 

Final Thoughts

I entered the fenced in area skeptical, but I came out feeling better. Goat yoga is, in its essence, fun. It makes you laugh. It allows goats to live their life and for you to watch. Should it be called yoga? Maybe not. Goat Stretch may be more appropriate. Goat yoga is not traditional, and that isn’t a bad thing. Things change, they adapt, and new things are invented. This is just life. Shouldn’t we all laugh a little more? Perhaps the popularity of goat yoga is rooted in people needing some joy in their lives. Goat yoga delivers just that.

Interested in finding goat yoga near you? Start with this list!

Thanks to Goat Yoga Las Vegas for the class.

FullSizeRender

 

 

 

 

Style, Brands & Reviews: OH MY! Find the Yoga Mat that is Perfect for You, Stress Free

Are you looking for the yoga mat that is just right for you and your practice?

Feeling overwhelmed by the many candidates?

Stop, take a breath, chill on the research. Read on to find your yoga mat the right way.

IMG_4414

Your Mat, Your Practice

Yoga mats play a major role in modern yoga practice. The right mat gives your protection over rough surfaces, cushion to relax, grip in poses that test your balance, and your own space to conduct your yoga practice. A yoga mat can be a great asset….. or a total ass.

When I first started my yoga practice, I used a brand less purple mat that I picked up at a local store. Overall the mat was okay, but as it got older and my physical yoga practice became regular, it began to lose tiny bits of mat after every class. This was equally embarrassing, satisfying and celebratory, as the little purple bits of mat looked like I was littering, working so hard in class that I literally tore the mat up, or that I was a self contained party full of purple mat confetti. Either way, my mat was deteriorating and I needed to get a new one. And I had no idea where to start.

A yoga mat can be a great asset….. or a total ass.

Exploring Your Options

Exploring the world of yoga mats can be overwhelming. I couldn’t believe all of the different choices when I first started looking. I also didn’t know if I could trust personal reviews. After all, we are all different, and what one person says may not lead me to the right mat for me.

So where do we begin?

  1. Determine what you need from your mat.

Start with what you really need. Are you sweaty and need a non-slip mat with good grip? Eco conscious and interested in low impact on our environment? A traveler looking for the lightest mat possible? Taller than average and looking for length? Or perhaps a bad knee that needs thicker padding? Whatever your specific needs are, there is a mat that can help! But be sure the clarify what your needs are before you start your search,

  1. Know your research.

Next, we go to the research. Normally, this could be exhausting and stressful.

Product research and multiple personal reviews are needed to get a holistic picture of what a mat will give you. Purchasing factors may range from mat length, material, effect on the environment, style, brand, weight and price. It is easy to get a headache researching and a bit of anxiety debating whether you have truly made the best choice.

The team at Reviews.com has compiled a well-researched, comprehensive list of the top 10 best yoga mats. Their approach is truly anthropological at heart, exploring hundreds of yoga mat reviews across outdoor shops, yoga blogs, product reviews and personal recommendations from established yoga professionals.

  1. Explore your mat!

Now is the really fun part- exploring your new mat and noticing how it affects your yoga practice. It may feel a bit strange at first, but all new things do. Enjoy the exploration!

You don’t have to have a mat to practice yoga, but finding one that works for you can be a great addition to your practice. Take the time to read the research and find that mat that is truly best for you!Let me know what you find, and happy mat hunting!

-Laura

 

 

 

Sitting Sucks. Yoga Can Help.

IMG_4385

How many hours do you sit in a day?

What effect does this have on your body? On your mind?

We sit. We sit a lot.

People sit for work, on a drive to work, during lunch, during meetings, coffee out with friends. This sedentary posture is so common that many people schedule in their time for a work out, perhaps assuming they will not actually get a work out during the day. The push to make things easier and comfortable is leading some to some negative health trajectories. The good news is that we can do something about it to improve our health and wellness.

To be clear, sitting is and of itself not bad. It is the amount of daily sitting combined with lack of exercise that gets us in trouble. Take home point: sitting for extended periods of time, especially with poor posture, has negative effects on our health.

What Does Extended Sitting Do to Your Body?

Over time, sitting can mess with the body in multiple ways, such as poor organ function, muscle degeneration, bad back, reduced mental clarity, general body strain and weakening.

How-Sitting-Kills-People
Graphic from Quitting Sitting.

How does all of this happen? When we sit, we are sedentary- not moving. By not moving, we are losing strength and vitality in the body resulting in circulation and oxygen intake and weakening of our muscles. When we sit, we deteriorate.

Avoiding or reducing sitting can be tough, as it is often built into the day. Between driving to and from work, sitting at a desk for a large chunk of the day, and sitting down for dinner with friends and family, sometimes it is hard to avoid sitting!

The most difficult part of breaking the sedentary lifestyle is changing daily patterns. Set achievable goals that you can pattern into your day. Are you able to avoid watching TV for an hour and instead pop on a podcast and go walking? Can you walk to lunch? Have a stationary bike in the television room? Small changes can have big effects- we are designed to be active!

Yoga to Counteract Sitting

Yoga helps us engage our muscles by bringing new blood flow to areas that we don’t always use. The breath work also helps stimulate the nervous system and keep us calm and alert. Any yoga is good for you, but the following postures are a great way to target areas that may be weakened due to prolonged sitting.

Cat/Cow

Increase spinal flexion and extension with this pairing. In Kundalini yoga, you can do this set rapidly for 3 minutes to increase energy and balance.

Half Pigeon

Hip-opening poses like half pigeon pose help to counteract the detrimental effects of sitting by stretching muscles, tendon, ligaments and fascia in the area, release emotional build up and improve the ability to deal with stress by finding calm through activating the flight or fight response we all have.

Revolved Triangle

This pose engages the spine, abs, and the hamstrings- all muscles that need attention from a life with a lot sitting!

Wide Legged Forward Fold

Low back pain is a common issue for many people, and sitting can aggravate it. Release the low back, stretch the hamstrings and reverse blood flow in this pose.

The First Step is to Start

These are just a few ideas of poses to insert into the day and break up the seated lifestyle. Any yoga practice is a good way to counteract the harmful effects of prolonged sitting. The biggest challenge is simply working it into your day. Start small, put in the effort, and remember that are bodies are made to move! If you feel overwhelmed, check out the Sit-Stand transition guide from Quitting Sitting.

To check yourself and your progress, start with 3 baseline days. Simply record how many hours or minutes a day you spend sitting.

Make an achievable goal to reduce sitting time and get active! Insert an activity into your sitting them.

If you need support, get some friends together and hold one another accountable.

Take a stand against the harmful effects of sitting- literally! Let us know how you do!