Let’s get the 800-pound gorilla out of the barn first – the 25-pound-or-so baby Boer goats ruled the yoga classes.
The white-and-brown smile makers were snatched up before and after the two goat yoga classes west of Lander in April and hugged and caressed, with yoga goers closing their eyes during the snuggles and then the goats closing THEIR eyes and drifting to sleep – or at least into a pretty high level of being centered.
Goat yoga was new to Lander – maybe to most of Wyoming – with University of Wyoming Extension educator Laura Balis proposing goat yoga as a fundraiser for the Fremont County 4-H Program. The sessions raised $686 ($250 from sponsors and $436 from participants).
Baldwin Creek Boers provided its barn.
Each baby goat was hoisted over a gate from the corral into the barn area converted into the yoga site, and participants brought their own mats to lie on the large blue tarp covering the dirt floor. Yoga practitioners followed session leader Jackie Lauer as inquisitive baby goats nibbled hair (smiles), walked between limbs (smiles), nuzzled against faces (smiles), and generally made themselves available to anyone (more smiles).
Baldwin Creek Boers’ Terrill Weston said they volunteered the facilities to help 4-H’ers. “I’m a UW grad and want to help out the extension folks anyway we could,” he said.
Becca Cross of Lander had just finished the first session and like many others stood holding a pretty-relaxed-looking baby goat.
“I feel lighter and giddier,” she said. “This is the most I’ve laughed in a yoga class. This was perfect. Just really light, a good class but entertaining, too, just to watch the goats. The baby animals make you smile.”
One woman with a friend was snuggling a baby goat (the baby goat, eyes closed, absorbing the hug) prior to the start of the first class. “I want one,” she soundlessly mouthed to her friend.
Cory Daly of Riverton liked the addition of goats to yoga.
“So much of yoga is about grounding and being connected with something deeper than yourself,” she said. “Nothing is more grounding than being out in nature and with animals, especially baby animals. They are so full of joy.”
There were a couple mother-daughters who participated.
Jennifer McClung of Lander posed by her young daughter, Kinsley, during the first class, a baby goat meandering its way through a pose by the mother (smiles) then between the arms of Kinsley (smiles).
Jennifer has practiced yoga for about 12 years. This was her first with goats. Jennifer after class was different than Jennifer before class.
“I’m a lot more light-hearted,” she said, holding another serene baby goat. “My body feels better, and it’s so much fun to be around these little creatures and see them play and be in their natural area. They relax and play and they chew. It’s just fun. It makes me a lot happier. This one is so sweet.”
The mother-daughter pair in the second class underwent a transformation. Hayden Pickerd, 10, of Lander had more than a little trepidation when she knew she was coming to the yoga class.
“She was nervous about the goats,” said her mother, Stefanie. “She had said she didn’t know what she was going to do if they were going to eat her hair or step on her.”
Her mother snapped a photo of Hayden with a frightened expression leaning away from a baby goat that had wandered over to her.
But even wary Hayden wasn’t immune.
“Then she started to get to know them while doing yoga, then petting them a little by little,” said her mother. “By the time we were done, she was holding them, and I found her by the hay with a goat and laying down.”
Stefanie said she wanted her daughter to learn to enter new experiences open-minded.
Hayden after felt different from Hayden before.
“I think I’ll get used to it when I try new things,” she said after the classes. “It was really, really fun, and I felt energy going through me. I had so much fun I didn’t want to leave, so my mom tried to get me interested in ice cream so I would, but it didn’t work. She had to (drag) me into the van.”
These were the first yoga classes with goats for certified instructor Lauer. She volunteered when she heard about the classes.
“I think they are super cute and fun,” she said. “I think other people need to experience this. A lot of people don’t know this is around.”
Lauer said she would slow the pace in the second class but hold poses longer. She had guessed the classes would skew toward the younger participants, but there were several older participants.
Balis had participated in a yoga class in Denver earlier this year (Denver International Airport had even offered a goat yoga area for stressed travelers for a time). She’s been asked if the sessions would be offered again.
“Yes, there was a lot of interest in offering another session, so we’d like to do this again,” she said. “I also want to find out if people are learning about goats, if they are learning about or have an interest in 4-H, and if learning about yoga, especially in the form of physical activity.”
The goat yoga sessions are probably seasonal. Weston said the does kid from January through March, providing light baby goats for any spring sessions. Any later and the baby goats would get too large, he said.