Next time you say Namaste to your fellow yogis, it might sound a little more like Naaaaaaaa-maste.
While it might sound strange—it certainly did to Melina Morsch at first—goat yoga is becoming a growing trend among yoga enthusiasts and newcomers alike. So, she decided to host one class to see how it would go.
“It was in February 2017 when I decided to give it a go. If you would have told me a few years ago I’d be offering goat yoga, I would have told you that you were nuts.”
She offers every different type of yoga class you could imagine at her studio: Fox Den Yoga in Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ont. She teaches yoga/pilates fusion, hot yoga, restorative yoga, but it’s the goat yoga that’s really making noise.
When she held her first class at Red Ribbon Stables, people found out about it through social media and it sold out within five to 10 minutes.
“When I first started it, I was reluctant in how much I wanted to invest in this. The more I did the program, the more I saw the reaction, the fact that the numbers keep growing, I don’t think goat yoga is going anywhere… It’s here to stay.”
Morsch started with one, then two, and it felt like before she could blink she found herself the proud owner of multiple pygmy goats that live on a livestock sanctuary in Ancaster, Ont., called Triple C Farms.
There’s Tupac, Echo, Twinkle, Isabelle, Noah, Gloria, Sunny, Chery, Aretha and her two kids Beyonce and Jay-Z, all of which are named after music artists.
When it’s time to do a class, the goats are loaded into a horse trailer that’s been modified for the animals. Each has their own designated space and are excited when it is time to go because they love interacting with people, Morsch explains.
Just like any typical yoga class, there is an instructor leading a group of people through a series of positions. Except in her classes, baby goats dart in and among the participants. While you try to find your inner peace standing in the tree position or warrior pose, the goats snuggle, nuzzle, run, and jump during what they consider playtime.
It’s hard not to become enchanted by the goats. They’re fun, gentle creatures and when one jumps on you, it’s difficult to complete the pose.
“Sometimes it’s a lovely moment to drop out of the mechanics of the class and just enjoy the animals,” Morsch says.
A goat yoga class is a very different opportunity for people to interact with the animals, which is one of the reasons why it is quickly gaining popularity.
“It’s not like putting a quarter in the machine and pellets come out that we can give to them,” Morsch explains.
Human and animal are moving and breathing together.
“They think we are their new herd and they try to adapt into the new class of herd. They looking for the alpha male or female.”
If a yoga class is filled with invigorating and playing people, the goats will be that. It’s an authentic connection between the two, Morsch says.
“The class opens up a child-like curiosity in people. They find themselves becoming more present, they stop worrying about stresses and anxiety and enjoy being in a group of people laughing and having a great time with adorable animals.”
It all started over three years ago when Morsch moved to Niagara-on-the-Lake. There was no yoga studio in town, so the yoga instructor searched for the perfect place. She found it in the Garrison Village, a plaza and residential suburb just off of Niagara Stone Road not far from the heart of downtown.
Before Morsch found yoga, she worked a desk job in an office and it just didn’t feel like the right fit for her.
When she found yoga, that all changed for her.
She says society, in general, is technology driven and people don’t often find themselves living in the moment because they’re obsessed with looking for what’s next.
But doing yoga is about community and the opportunity to experience it with goats gives people a chance to connect with nature.
“When you’re with the goats, they’re present and don’t have an agenda. They don’t judge, and they aren’t concerned with how many people are following you on Instagram.”
In addition to offering classes to the public, Morsch offers team building goat yoga classes for large companies like Ikea Canada and has even offered programs for survivors of sex trafficking and addiction recovery.
It’s always fun to see people with big type A personalities get down on all fours and let a little goat jump on their backs.
It’s also heartwarming to see people who have been through horrible experiences and suffered connect with one of the goats.
With goat yoga continuing to grow in popularity, she expanded to offer the program year-round and holds it at several sites including Red Ribbon Stables and Small Talk Winery in Niagara-on-the-Lake, as well as classes in Mississauga, Burlington and Black Creek Pioneer Village in Toronto.
Morsch is very excited about her offering at Black Creek Pioneer Village because it’s the first-time goat yoga will be available to people with subway accessibility.
A lot of people tell Morsch they never expected to have a healing or restorative experience.
“What a lot of people don’t realize until they see it first hand is that these animals have a soul. They are thinking, and emotional beings and people don’t realize that about livestock animals in particular.”