Our correspondent discovers the fitness trend isn't as ridiculous as it sounds.
There are many aspects of goat yoga that set it apart, but the biggest one has to be the poop.
For those new to the concept, goat yoga is exactly what it sounds like: practicing yoga while actual horned animals wander about. After discovering last year that goat yoga is a thing, fifth-generation farmer Katherine Harrison connected with a yogi friend, Dana Bernstein, and brought the idea to Columbus. Every month, Harrison welcomes about 30 people to her family-owned Harrison Farm in Groveport to participate in an outdoor class, and there's usually a waiting list.
Goat yoga is, in the abstract, ridiculous. The goats do not respect personal boundaries or property. They have a gamey funk. Their toilet is the great outdoors, which, when you're on Harrison Farm, could—and likely might—include your mat.
Bernstein begins the class by urging us to feel the wind on our skin and listen to nature (a rooster crows on cue). She reads a quote from Deepak Chopra. And then the goats arrive. They are led out to the lawn and enticed to stay with big bowls of feed. A mama goat named Corn Nugget keeps close tabs on her two babies.
As we go through a few cycles and I try to find my center, I am at once soothed by the crisp air and shining sun and also concerned that the participating livestock might pee on me. On the plus side, the heightened awareness of the animals roaming among us also helps me fully appreciate the bucolic setting.
Harrison and her staff are committed to offering the animals a good life—yoga included—in the 10–12 months the males are residents. Not to harsh the yoga buzz, but Harrison Farm is a working livestock farm, which means the males are eventually shipped off to become food. I'm curious how they avoid becoming too attached to the goats, which they care for by hand and name. One staffer gives me an answer that includes the “circle of life,” and then says it's not that hard because most of the males are “assholes anyway.” Only well-behaved lady goats participate in the class.
This frankness and genuine love for the animals is central to Harrison Farm. We are not doing goat yoga ironically. Bernstein is laid-back in her direction and does not mind animal interruptions. When Corn Nugget eats a page out of her class plan notebook, Bernstein scolds, “that is not cool,” and continues, unruffled.
A woman in front of me spends most of the class trying to avoid the baby goat curled up for a nap on her mat. The rest of the class is gripped with goat envy. It is a communal experience, as everyone moves through their poses while keeping one eye open for the main attractions. I can't say it's the most relaxing yoga class I've ever been to. But even though I came with some skepticism, it is hard not be charmed by the whole thing.
With the grass in my toes, a rooster in the background, the warm sun shining down and absolutely zero pretense, doing yoga with goats is the perfect blend of silly and serene.
And, for the first time, I had an honest, legitimate excuse to come home from yoga smelling like a goat.