It’s impossible to look at Instagram without seeing photos of goats eating grass in a pasture surrounded by yoga mats and students doing downward dog.
The so-called goat yoga classes started popping up in 2016 and quickly became the hottest fitness ticket in town. Some farms, including No Regrets Farm in Albany, Oregon, where Lainey Morse was the first to offer goat yoga classes, boast long waiting lists.
While goat yoga might seem like an over-hyped fitness craze, there are several surprising reasons you should give it a try (or keep rolling out your mat in the pasture if you’re already a regular).
GOATS ARE YOGA AMBASSADORS
Goat yoga has gone viral. Countless videos of adorable goats climbing on students during downward dog or lying on mats during savasana helped spark interest in the mindfulness practice among those who might not have taken a yoga class in a traditional studio.
“Only about 15% of the people in our classes do yoga on a regular basis before they try goat yoga,” says Sarah Williams, yoga instructor and co-founder of Arizona Goat Yoga. “We think being in tune with nature and having goats to distract you a little makes yoga less intimidating for people who have never tried it before.”
THE STUDIO IS A PASTURE
Unlike the yoga studios where most classes are held, goat yoga takes place outdoors. Research has found a host of health benefits associated with spending time outdoors, including boosts in memory and lower stress levels. Taking your yoga practice outside also increases vitamin D levels, which could help lower depression.
IT COULD INTENSIFY YOUR PRACTICE
A goat in search of a nuzzle might cause you to falter in tree pose but the distraction — coupled with the uneven terrain in the pasture — could help take your yoga practice to the next level.
“A lot of regular yogis come to the class, and they love it because it’s so much more challenging when you’re outdoors because everything is uneven and it’s harder to balance,” Morse says.
GOATS HAVE A CALMING PRESENCE
Goats could expand your understanding of mindfulness. “Goats don’t have any problems with being in the present moment,” Morse says. “When they chew their cud they go into this meditative state and it’s oddly relaxing to watch. When you’re with them and they are in the state it brings you to the present moment as well.”
Goats don’t care about the perfect pigeon pose. In fact, Williams believes that being with a nonjudgmental animal is the perfect way to unwind, noting, “Just petting animals releases the chemical oxytocin, which makes people happy.”
Science agrees. While there is no specific research on the mental health benefits of goats, countless studies have examined the impact of spending time with animals. A meta-analysis published in Frontiers of Psychology looked at human-animal interactions and found they reduced fear and anxiety, promoted a sense of calm, reduced heart rate and blood pressure and lowered stress.
READ MORE > ON MY MAT: INSIDE THE MIND OF A YOGA TEACHER
TRYING NEW THINGS IS GOOD FOR YOU
Showing up for yoga class — even when you take the same class with a favorite teacher — is good for you. But shaking things up and experimenting with something new offers significant mental health benefits.
“I know this sounds crazy but I have had so many people tell me that it was the best thing they have ever done or that it was the best day of their lives; it’s many people’s bucket list item,” she says. “It’s just impossible to feel sad or depressed when you have goats around you.”
GEAR UP FOR YOUR NEXT YOGA SESSION