Goat doing yoga illustration

Goat Yoga

A Q&A with Goat Yoga pioneer Lainey Morse

People are flocking to Oregon’s Willamette Valley to participate in the latest meditative exercise: Goat Yoga. Goat Yoga gained notoriety in 2016 when Lainey Morse started offering yoga classes with goats on her No Regrets Farm. Morse’s goal is to help those experiencing stress and anxiety find healing through her Goat Yoga classes.

 

How did Goat Yoga begin?

I started Goat Happy Hour with my friends when I was having a hard time going through divorce and illness. I just felt like a crumbling person. I came home every day and spent time with the goats, and it was really hard to be sad and depressed when there were baby goats jumping around. I invited my other friends over who were stressed from work or whatever they were going through. By the time they left they would always be happy, so I started calling it Goat Happy Hour. I’m hoping to use Goat Happy Hour to help people with stress and illness by using the goats as therapy animals.

 

How did Goat Yoga become so popular?

Who knows? I submitted a story idea to Modern Farmer magazine in early 2016 thinking it would be fun. Every time you check the news, it’s so depressing and ridiculous. I think the story about Goat Yoga just came out at the right time to distract people from politics and war. It was a happy, fun story and I think that’s why it took off so quickly. I think the media who came out here to film it thought it was a big joke, but when they got here and saw the ecstatic faces of everyone participating, they realized that it’s magical and has longevity.

 

Why are goats good animals for animal‑assisted therapy?

Goats are ruminants which means they have four stomachs, and like cows they regurgitate their cud and chew it for a while, which is a methodical process and oddly relaxing to watch. They’re very calm animals. They play and jump around and want to sit by you. I don’t think people realize how fascinating goats are until they get here and spend time with them. I’m a relatively new goat owner. It has just been through my personal experience that they’ve helped me, and I’ve realized that they can help a lot of other people. I’ve seen online that there are a lot of other farms doing Goat Yoga as well for events such as cancer benefits. It’s mind blowing.

 

How are you hoping to begin specializing in animal‑assisted therapy?

I’m currently searching for therapists in the area that are interested in bringing their patients out to be with the goats. I’ve been in touch with a few doctors who love the idea but it’s a slow process, so I’m starting out with the Goat Yoga retreat classes. Goat Happy Hour will become another part of the business, so it won’t only be Goat Yoga but animal‑assisted therapy sessions as well. That’s the end goal I’m hoping to make happen by the end of 2017.

 

Have you had any doctors or therapists come out to the farm yet?

Yes, I recently had Dr. Pamela Wible come up to the farm. She wants to do a study about how doing yoga with the goats around can lower your blood pressure. She took everyone’s blood pressure before and after the exercise, and for the most part all of them were lower by the end. She’s going to do more research and write in a medical journal about Goat Yoga’s health benefits.

 

What do Goat Yoga participants say about their experience with the goats?

I always ask participants, “Was it as cool as you thought it was going to be?” Every single person says it was a magical or amazing experience. People travel hundreds of miles from Seattle, California, Alaska…. They’re flying in to participate in this and they all say they’d do it again, so I need to think this will be long-term.

 

What part of this experience has given you the most pleasure?

Although I don’t take part in the yoga classes (I supervise the goats to make sure they don’t eat people’s mats), seeing people’s expressions is priceless to me. They’re showing pure happiness, and I feel like the luckiest person in the world because this gets to be a real-life job: making people happy.

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