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.
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.
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.
Things I observed:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.