Goat Yoga and an Open Heart by Elizabeth Shelhart
I have always enjoyed practicing yoga outside. The breeze, the blue sky, and the sunshine are all supportive of feeling present and energized. When I first began hearing about goat yoga, I knew it would be a fun way to practice.
On my search for an opportunity to practice yoga outside with adorable goats running around, I discovered Goatlandia ( www.goatlandia.org ). Goatlandia is a farm animal rescue sanctuary in the outskirts of Santa Rosa. Many of the animals arrived on the property after last year’s fires. From the minute Nicole Heslip, a devoted Yoga Mountain yogini and dear friend, drove up the gravel driveway, I had a feeling we were going to have a unique experience.
We set up our mats outside on a deck under an expansive oak tree and were told to snuggle and pet the goats as much as we’d like as we practiced. There were goats of all sizes and breeds that joined our yoga class. The large horns and hooves of the full-grown goats were a little intimidating, but these goats are used to people. They were curious about us, but also about the stash of feed the teacher, Alana, passed out at the beginning of class. We scattered the food around our mats and were greeted with hooves and bleats while om’ing and flowing.
Alana would lure the goats back with leaves from the nearby trees if they wandered off. Yes, it was distracting practicing while goats were running around, but the play and smiles were what I had primarily come for anyway. Everyone was laughing during the class and the joy was amplified by our beautiful surroundings.
One of my favorite parts was cuddling the tiny three-legged baby goat named Poppy. She was rescued from a facility where the vet couldn’t bear to put her down. Now she runs freely at Goatlandia and greets visitors with her sweetness.
Yoga and animals go together in my mind. The unconditional love that animals share and their natural presence are a perfect match for the practice of mindfulness and the cultivation of an open heart. Cats love to roll around on our mats as we stretch and breath. Dogs lick our faces as we lie back in Shavasana. And, well, goats like to jump on any unsuspecting down dogger. It’s a perfect match!