I have been hearing more about this trend, and recently USA Today wrote about it here:
A local farm in Pendleton, SC, has now gotten into the goat yoga game, and I’m sure our lowcountry farms will soon follow. Recently, yoga has exploded in all sorts of places–the beach (I love beach yoga!), parks, in microbreweries, in boutique stores, and now, in goat pastures.
Don’t get me wrong. I love goats. I love animals. I understand the instructor’s claim that having goats walking in and out of the asana (movement) practice can help bring focus. But I wonder why we are seeing this trend. Are we working to make yoga available to all people, or is this a novelty built into a market flooded with traditional studios and gyms? Is it about access, or marketing?
I know some amazing yoga teachers working in these non-traditional settings. And if someone thinks “hey, that yoga studio seems awfully serious and has lots of bendy people but goats don’t judge” and decides to give it a shot, cool. But yoga is about uniting the spirit with the universal–the bigger than ourselves–God, the cosmic one-ness, Brahman, whatever links us all together. We can access that through prayer and meditation, through karma yoga (selfless positive acts), and through asana practice wherever that may be, in a studio, gym, or goat pasture. We don’t need to go anywhere to experience yoga. So it might be fun to try new venues, but it’s not necessary.
As for me, I will give goat yoga a try someday. I am intrigued by yoga in non-studio settings, and I will attend classes as soon as I am home from teaching in upstate South Carolina for the semester. But I will have to work to maintain positive energy if a goat pees on my yoga mat!
I remember the first time I took a yoga class–it was 1996, at the University of Arizona Rec Center. My neighbor and I, both Ph.D. students at the time, took the plunge into an Ashtanga class. Considering our age and our penchant for parties and late night studying, it is astonishing that we were able to get up at 6 am twice a week to take a vigorous vinyasa flow with a wonderful teacher. She was a senior yogi, with beautiful silver hair, and she could bend in ways I could not as a young twenty-something–and still cannot. She taught me that yoga is for all people, the younger and the older, the flexible and the not-so-flexible, and for all body shapes and types.
Twenty-some years later, I continue to practice yoga. I am also lucky enough to guide others through vinyasa flow classes. The asana practice of yoga, or the movement on the mat, is just one component of yoga, which is a practice intended to unite the spirit and the universal truth/oneness that’s out there. We can all tap into that energy. It can take us deeper into ourselves so that we can turn positive energy outward to help others. And it is for ALL of us. I am a curvy yogi, a somewhat inflexible yogi, a yogi who falls out of balance poses and has to restart positions, a yogi whose lower back does not like headstands. But I am still a yogi. And if you engage in the practice of yoga, SO ARE YOU.
Claim your mat space, yogis! Let’s all walk into those studio spaces, turn on that yoga video for the first time, or try a new class at the gym without fear. We all start somewhere–everyone you see in a class, or on a video, or in those fancy instagram yoga shots, every single one of them decided to do yoga for a first time at some point. Every. Single. One. We all have a right to that mat space on the floor. No one owns it. We don’t need to worry about what we are wearing, how anyone else looks in a pose, or whether or not our mats are fancy. Yoga is for all of us. Every day, everywhere. Let’s not wait “until” to start a practice. We are all perfect in our human imperfection. We are ready for yoga now. Let’s get out there and claim our power, recharge our batteries, seek our inner peace, and prepare ourselves to bring positive energy to the world!