“Yoga + Baby Goats = Awesome” read the email subject line from my alma mater, NYU. Even though I no longer live in New York City, I had to click through. Because WTF is goat yoga?
The email opened to reveal a photo of an athleisure-wearing college student in downward dog with a baby goat perched happily on her butt. Was this an expertly photoshopped prank? I re-checked the date on the email. It was April 11 – far too late for an April Fool’s joke.
The body of the email discussed sustainable land management using grazing animals. It gave no explanation about why anyone would want to do yoga with baby goats. My imagination ran wild. Did their body weight help you stretch? Did their hooves act as acupressure? Seriously: why do goat yoga?
My curiosity only deepened as I saw more people posting goat yoga Instagram pics. So much so that it seemed baby goats had become as ubiquitous at yoga classes as Lululemon leggings. One nonchalantly munched hay atop the svelte stomach of a yogi in wheel pose, another two climbed atop a pair of giggling friends as they did cat-cow. What IS this? I wondered. Is this the new ice bucket challenge?
Then came a text from my friend, Nicole: goat yoga was coming to Marin Country Mart. We had to try it.
So many questions.
With our $40 tickets purchased (we justified this as the cost of a new life experience), Nicole and I giddily anticipated our goat yoga class like teenagers who’d just been asked to prom. We researched the mini-controversy surrounding the trend (apparently some baby goats are sourced from goat cheese farms – not cool in the eyes of a militant vegan splinter group), read up on City Grazing (the event organizer), and DM’ed each other with pics of tiny baby goats chewing yogis’ ponytails.
Finally, goat yoga D-day arrived. But as I slipped on my flip flops and prepared to leave, I was suddenly confronted with a pivotal dilemma: should I be bringing my own yoga mat? Mine had gone missing months ago (which tells you about how often I do yoga) and it was far too late to launch a yoga mat recon mission. But even if I did bring my own mat, what would happen if a goat peed or pooped on it? I knew I’d be far too grossed out to shavasana on that thing unless I also brought a spray bottle full of bleach. Or wait….what if the goats pooped on us? I decided to get there early to investigate, mentally mapping nearby vendors of plastic ponchos in case we needed to shield our workout gear from feces.
I arrived to find about two dozen people giggling through down dog on purple and turquoise mats as an equal number of goats wandered between them, nibbling hay. What the F are we doing? I wondered. Meanwhile, the instructor worked with the few yogis who weren’t laughing too hard to actually participate. Then, it happened: one of the larger goats paused mid-chew to tuck her pelvis and pee at the head of someone’s mat. Out of nowhere appeared a 30-something quasi-hipser with a bushy beard and golden, armpit-length hair. He produced a grapefruit-sized wad of paper towels and a squirt bottle of disinfectant and quickly sanitized the area.
Glad I hadn’t bothered to look for my mat.
The goat yoga experience.
Nicole and I linked up just before class started. We needed a plan of attack for this new experience. It didn’t seem like there’d be much actual yoga going on, so we decided to enjoy the interaction and snap a few photos. We chose the cleanest looking mats and sat down in lotus pose, waiting for the goats to be released from their wire holding pen.
Our Nordic-looking goatherd reappeared with an armload of hay, which he distributed evenly around the class as the yoga teacher explained that this was not going to be a typical yoga experience. She encouraged us to touch the animals and take photos. Nicole and I looked at each other, relieved that we wouldn’t be the only two assholes snapping Insta pics. Then, out came the goats!
The whole class scree’ed in unison as they pranced and brayed, shaking their tails happily as they spread out to snack. We ran our hands along their backs and scratched their heads as they passed, staring into their alien, horizontal pupils and wondering what they thought of us crazy humans.
Once class began, it quickly became apparent that these goats were not the rambunctious, climbing variety of Instagram fame. But this did nothing to diminish the ridiculousness – or the sweetness – of our experience. The instructor sprinkled hay onto our stomachs as we moved into a figure four stretch. I couldn’t hold in my laughter as a sweet, gray-and-tan mama goat wandered over and began nibbling the greens on my belly. This wasn’t a normal human-goat interaction, nor was it really yoga. I wasn’t sure what it was, but I was enjoying it.
Then, the tiniest, most timid baby goat wandered up to Nicole’s mat. And as she planked, it tried to eat her gold hoop earring. When it failed, it promptly fell asleep standing up. She collapsed into child’s pose, giggling as I snapped away.
Supposedly, these weird interactions are meant to socialize the goats and help desensitize them to the noisy, erratic urban environment in which they’ll someday work. That said, I don’t know that I’ve ever seen anyone suddenly hop into a tree pose whilst walking by a vacant city lot. Then again, these goats are going to work in San Francisco, so you never really know.
In the end, I’m happy to have had this utterly ridiculous experience. I can’t say I got a workout, but I definitely had a smile on my face for the rest of the day.