Though it’s a new concept, goat yoga grows because it offers exercise, relaxation, and friendly goats that climb on participants as they practice.
The Original Goat Yoga
When photographer Lainey Morse got her first goats in 2014, she had no idea just how much they would change her life. Her move to the acreage she named No Regrets Farm, in the Willamette Valley of Oregon, allowed her to finally realize her dream of having goats. She promptly bought a couple and named them Ansel and Adams.
In 2016, while going through a divorce, Lainey was diagnosed with the autoimmune disease, Sjorgrens. She recalls, “I was just going through a tough time, and every day I would come home from work and go out in the field and spend time with the goats. It was just so therapeutic to me. When they are around, I think of nothing else but these goats.”
She started “Goat Happy Hour” for her friends. They would call her and say, “I just had such a stressful day at work. Can I come over for Goat Happy Hour?” When they were there, with the goats, they forgot about their stress and pain and were happy by the time they left.
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Lainey hosted a charity birthday party for ten-year-olds, on her farm, that raised money for Soroptimist, a program empowering women and girls. One mom, yoga instructor Heather Davis, commented on the breathtaking 360° view of the Oregon mountains. She asked Lainey to let her do a yoga class on the farm. Lainey said it would be OK, but the goats would climb all over the humans. Heather just responded with, “Cool.”
They arranged a photo shoot, where Lainey took pictures of Heather doing yoga poses against the mountain backdrop. As predicted, the baby goats jumped on top of her. People loved the pictures.
The first class sold out. Lainey couldn’t believe it. She thought only her friends and family would come to something like this because, really, who does this?
But it didn’t stop there. At one point, she had over 2,000 people on a class waiting list. Now, there are goat yoga classes in most U.S. states as well as Canada, Mexico, Europe, and Australia.
Goat Yoga Grows
John Sponauer of Southington, Connecticut believes in the increasingly popular mantra of, “Buy experiences, not things.” He lives near a goat farm and he saw, on Facebook, that it offered goat yoga classes. He asked his niece if she would be interested in trying it during her next visit. Unfortunately, on that particular weekend, the class wasn’t offered at the farm. He looked online and found another nearby farm with goat yoga classes.
“I found it interesting that there were multiple choices for goat yoga near me,” he said. “I enjoyed it a lot. The goats were inquisitive, which made the exercise entertaining. I can’t say I’d try it on a regular basis, because it was less of a focus on yoga and more on playing with the goats, but it was certainly something that’s fun to recollect and share. My background is marketing, and I couldn’t help but admire such a social media-ready attraction for local farms!”
It’s a great extra revenue stream for small farms. One woman, who recently contacted Morse for help starting a class, said she lives in a poor village in Mexico with a lot of dairy goats. They want to start goat yoga because it’s near a very popular tourist area. She thinks it’ll help the impoverished farmers.
Starting goat yoga as a money-making agriculture business isn’t difficult. All you need is a piece of property with a nice view and friendly goats. Lainey Morse now has 11: three Boers and eight Nigerian Dwarf goats. Most are rescues.
You don’t even need to know how to do yoga; you can hire an instructor. Morse says most people who come to her classes have never even tried yoga. They come for the goats. For most, it is also their first experience with goats and they are shocked at how friendly and loving the animals are. This is especially true if you raise them as bottle babies and spend a lot of time with them before using them in a class.
Enthusiasts seem especially taken with goat kids, which good news for dairy farmers or breeders raising baby goats. Goat yoga socializes the kids so they are used to being touched and are docile for future milking. For a breeder looking to sell goats, it is a great selling point to say, “These were goat yoga goats so they are very friendly and loving.”
Marketing a Brand
After the concept went viral last year, Morse tried to get the term “goat yoga” trademarked. So far, she has had to settle with a trademark on Original Goat Yoga. She sells licensing to her brand, as well as consultation, but Lainey is picky about to whom she sells the licensing. It must be a natural, organic experience. She doesn’t want to be associated with people who turn it into a circus, dressing up the goats and putting them on people’s backs for pictures. Lainey believes goats should just be goats.
Morse also started her own brand of goat-themed exercise clothing. And she partnered with some retired emergency room nurses who love her goats. After 30 years in the ER, they just want to spend time with goats and make goat-themed gifts. They call themselves the Goat Grandmas.
If you do decide to try this, be sure to check your local zoning laws. It is such a new thing that specific “goat yoga” hasn’t been written into zoning laws; goat presence may violate other codes.
In July of 2017, Tracy Longoria of Manchester, Connecticut received a cease and desist order from her local zoning enforcement office. She appealed and won the right to continue.
Morse was not so lucky. Her farm is zoned “exclusive farm use,” which means she has to make 80 percent of her income from farming or agriculture. Her zoning commission decided goat yoga was not agriculture. She called her planning and zoning committee, her governor, and every other person she thought might be able to help her. She got the same answer from all of them: she needed to call her legislator and try to get it written into the zoning. Where she lives, the rules allow for outdoor events at bed and breakfasts or wineries. For now, she has partnered with the Hampton County Inn and Emerson Vineyards. She transports her goats to every session in her custom minivan.
Goat yoga classes usually cost more than regular yoga classes of the same length, because customers receive animal therapy as well as exercise and relaxation. As more jobs move indoors, more people crave natural outdoor experiences. Whether you have a full working farm or just a couple acres and some pet goats, you have something a lot of people want: the relaxation that comes with being in a beautiful outdoor setting with friendly, inquisitive animals.
Have you tried goat yoga? Have you considered starting it on your farm?
Theresa Miller lives in a small ranching town in Idaho, where she and her husband own and operate a small engine repair shop called Cycles, Sleds & Saws. Her spare time is divided between reading, writing, cooking, gardening, picking huckleberries and learning new things. Her favorite hobby is talking to people about things they are passionate about.
Originally published in the January/February 2018 issue of Goat Journal and regularly vetted for accuracy.