Southeast Missouri State University student publication

You've goat to be kidding me! Goat yoga comes to Cape Girardeau

Wednesday, October 23, 2019
Graphic by Ally Bruemmer

What happens when 25 yoga practitioners, treats and 20 very confused goats are combined?

Goat yoga, of course.

Goat yoga — a group yoga session held in a goat pen, barn or area — allows both yoga practitioners and goats to interact while moving through a series of poses and stretches. In many cases, the goats will jump on or around participants.

Shakti and Free Yoga Studio owner Chelsea Aldrich taught yoga for the past several years before tackling goat yoga at Lazy-L Safari earlier this summer. She said she began by earning a bachelor of science in psychology from Southeast, but wanted to address mental health with a more holistic approach. A mind-body balance is especially important to mental health, Aldrich said, and yoga provides that connection.

Lazy-L Safari in Cape Girardeau began offering sessions of goat yoga following a request from the Girl Scouts of the Missouri Heartland, Lazy-L Safari Director Vicki Lantz said.

Lantz said the hourlong yoga sessions, which involve 15 to 20 of the ranch’s African Pygmy goats, are offered in the Lazy-L Safari goat pen. Here, yoga beginners and experts alike can strike a pose, hold a baby goat and feed the animals.

While this began as a group class for the Girl Scout group, Lantz said Lazy-L decided to continue the class due to its popularity. She said she was skeptical until she saw the first goat yoga session for herself.

During goat yoga sessions, certified instructor Aldrich leads participants through poses such as downward dog, forward fold, tabletop and tree pose. Aldrich’s 11-year-old daughter practices yoga with her mother as well and assists Aldrich with goat yoga at Lazy-L Safari.

Aldrich said tabletop, in which the participant poses with hands and knees on the mat and a flat back, is especially essential to goat yoga. Goats may hop onto participants’ backs during this pose, or crawl under people during downward dog.

The goats might nibble on mats or clothing, Aldrich said. Since the goat pen can also become quite messy, participants are asked to bring older yoga mats.

Some of the goats participating in yoga have distinct personalities. Animal Science major Cassie Musgrave has tended the animals at Lazy-L Safari since June — including taking care of the goats.

A goat the staff named “Grandma” can be particularly mischievous, Musgrave said. The older goat learned to unlatch doors at the petting zoo and escape into the larger area.

However, Aldrich said the goats’ unpredictability is essential to the experience.

“Learning to relinquish control is part of it,” Aldrich said.

While the goats did interact with patrons during the session, she said the goats were confused at first but still definitely interested in the treats.

She said one of the best parts of the sessions is seeing the “joyful” reactions of individuals who participate.

Aldrich said she believes mental health has a very close tie to physical health, something she said is important to understanding the impact of goat yoga sessions.

Sessions of goat yoga have been held at farms and ranches across the country, including in the midwest, where nearby Green Finned Hippy Farm of Pocahontas, Illinois and Goat Yoga of Missouri in Columbia, Missouri, offer classes.

While the last session of goat yoga at Lazy-L Safari ended in early October, Lantz said Lazy-L Safari plans to resume the activity when the ranch reopens for the season next spring. Registration for goat yoga sessions is $30, which includes the class and goat feed.

As for what the goats thought of yoga? They declined to comment.