Yoga with animals: the most recent way western civilization is ruining the sacred ancient practice? Well, yeah, but also, maybe not.
On Saturday, I dragged Kyle to Mountain Flower Goat Dairy here in Boulder to take a yoga class with me. And I have some thoughts…
Over the past year, my social media feeds have occasionally been flooded with various “yoga with animals” videos, produced and shared by online magazines telling you about a hip new studio in NYC or the latest craze in LA. Mostly, I recall them featuring goats or kittens and being in a place completely unaccessible to a midwestern gal like me. As a millennial, I’m trained to identify these activities for what they are; a creative twist on something I already do for more money than I usually pay, but benefits a non-profit in some way so I can feel good about the experience and, obviously, offers a great Instagram post. Just another fad in the pay-to-experience marketplace, right? Well, yeah, but also, maybe not.
You see, before a neighbor advertised the Goat Yoga class, I didn’t even know that Mountain Flower Goat Dairy existed, let alone anything about their mission.
“Being a working dairy farm is at the heart of our nonprofit mission to practice land stewardship, humane treatment of animals & conservation through urban agriculture, education and advocacy.
At Mountain Flower Goat Dairy, we connect urban residents back to the land, back to their food and back to nature by providing access to sustainable agriculture, farm education and humane dairy production.”
As someone who grew up on a farm and as someone who wants to see positive change in the world, that’s a mission I can get behind. If trendy animal workouts help draw awareness to important causes, then yes, this is a good thing. If I get to hang out with goats at the same time as I center myself and simultaneously get a mild workout, then yes, this is a good thing. And if the popularity of this fad, at the very least, brings more people to start their personal yoga practice (there were a few first-timers in this class!), then yes, this is a good thing.
And while most of western civilization practices an unrecognizable descendant of the true practice of yoga, some of the key fundamentals remain true. Many of my instructors close every class with “May all beings everywhere be happy and free.” Goats are, inherently, happy and free. Their playfulness, curiosity, and friendliness during our class served as a reminder of the best ways to go through your life. Imagine your forehead pressed into your mat in Child’s Pose, each breath drawing your torso closer to the ground as you let go of any stiffness while setting your breath for your practice, when suddenly you hear and feel a faster-paced breath start to tickle your ear… and find that a friendly goat had joined you on your mat for a short while. Having grown up around goats on the farm, they aren’t a new experience for me. In fact, I’m 95% certain there’s a photo of me holding a baby goat in the FFA section of my senior yearbook. Nonetheless, they are a joyful experience for me.
They did not, however, have any respect for the mat; at the end of our class I was fortunate enough to roll up a mat free of any goat urine. So while yoga with goats or cats or any other animal might be a far cry from the ancient teachings of yoga, I walked away from class feeling uplifted, happy, and free.
So if the opportunity presents itself to practice yoga with goats on a sustainable and ethical dairy farm or with cats looking for their fur-ever homes, do it!