The year of trying new things progresses in spurts – I’ve taken a television production class, co-hosted a radio show, covered a story on Fat Bikes Racing in a snow storm, learned to typeset and print my name at an antique printing press at the Museum of Printing, hosted a gallery exhibit of my husband’s photography…. In retrospect, most of those activities could fall under the realm of professional development. So what have I done for me??? Well I became a parent to a pretty awesome 30-year old step adult, who moved in a couple months ago, increased my repertoire of vegetarian recipes, and though I typically eschew trends – I tried something called Goat Yoga. my first yoga class since high school and boy has it changed. What exactly is goat yoga and why do I keep singing that phrase to the tune of Rock Lobster? I was about to get most of my answers at Moon Shadow Goat Yoga in the Allen family barnyard in Boxford, MA.
Contrary to mistaken belief Goat Yoga is NOT a spectator sport where goats demonstrate yoga positions for the enjoyment and youtube videos of all. It’s people doing yoga in the company of goats. Why? Because they’re goats, and goats are cool. And yoga’s good for you, and communing with animals is always pretty spiritual. Ultimately, goat yoga is just about the most ridiculous, fabulous, giggle and serenity inducing concept.
My nieces ( 20-somethings Logan and Sloan) and I (much older than 20-something) signed up after a very short texted discussion. We made reservations, grabbed our yoga mats, put on our yoga pants (in my case black sweats that I didn’t bother to de-fur after a run in with our family’s hungry 14lb rabbits, I mean what’s the point) and headed to the barnyard.
Upon arrival, we were met by really lovely people who helped us park so we could get out afterwards, provided extra yoga mats, a warm greeting, a shoe disinfecting bucket to keep the goats healthy, and plenty of goats and hay. The 75-minute class cost $30 and was led by the lithe, welcoming, and calming instructor – Briana V. Grieco. of Mandala Garden Farms. She’s a farm gal herself and most appreciative of the animals that we live with. She seated herself between a couple of ancient fully leafed trees with a tie dye peace symbol back drop and soft pop music.
Bianca’s soothing and cheerful demeanor didn’t change even when piles of goat poop plopped on her mat; she merely beckoned the goat wranglers to clean up or change mats as necessary. No biggie. I watched when perhaps my eyes should have been closed and noted that the goats seemed to head specifically toward her to relieve themselves. I was pretty relieved myself with their choice of her over me for that purpose. Briana said it was because she recognized the value in their droppings that would feed and fertilize the earth. I am not quite that evolved yet, making me think more yoga is in order.
Goat Yoga is what you make of it. People of all sizes, shapes, ages, and abilities shared non-judgmental space with roaming bands of chickens, a dozen mini and baby goats and a couple of normal sized ones, all under the watchful eye of two horses, and though I hadn’t seen him, a big pig, too. Goat introductions were somewhat slower in the first minutes as they nosed around trying to figure out the worth of each student whether it be food or novelty or slumber inducing cheek scratches. I was never envious of anyone’s positions and flexibility, but if some got a loving goat to relax in their arms, I am not too proud to admit being a little jealous. My mind wandered to competitive goat relationship building until I reined it in.
So about the goats, they are sweet or weird or pushy or timid. Just like people, they come in all personalities. Their behavior was unexpected: two toppled on me after a mock battle, another managed to sneak behind Logan and suck on her freshly cleaned pony-tail. That was weird. Another tried to eat my bug repellent bracelet, while I tried to explain the merits of not doing that. If you didn’t hang up your belongings, goats pretty much figured you intended to share. The ever present wranglers were at the ready to separate you from a goat, if that was your desire, though that thought never crossed my mind.
We were moving between ‘happy baby’, ‘table top’, ‘cat’, and ‘reverse table top’ positions when we were advised to check for goats before lowering ourselves to the ground. At one point when I was so into the yoga I forgot the goats and relaxed into myself and nature, I was pulled from my meditation by whispered instructions from Sloan to get out my camera and look at the roof. A goat had climbed pretty high up, and I wouldn’t have wanted to miss that.
During the course of the class, we were instructed a couple of times to “give back in gratitude”. Wranglers handed us choice branches with lush green, sweet maple leaves that the goats accepted appreciatively and eagerly. Okay in some cases kind of greedily; they are after all still evolving, too.
Logan, Sloan and I had a lot to discuss and laugh about after the cooling peppermint spritz, selfies with goats, and a homemade ice cream at Benson’s, also in Boxford. We loved the goats, were mostly calmed by the experience, and we hope everyone with an open mind and a love of critters gets a chance to go for goat yoga. It might not be your every day yoga, but adding goats to the mix takes you to a new level of mirth, mayhem, and memorability.
Speaking of levels, I am an analyst by nature so I needed to quantify the experience – how much did goats versus yoga figure into my enjoyment of the day? It was pretty much 50/50 for me, but upon further analysis I realized that even that sweet 18″ sleepy baby goat was not as precious as spending time with my nieces.
(c) Alison Colby-Campbell