No kidding: Goat yoga classes filling up

Part animal therapy, part casual
Gazette reporter Indiana Nash (left) and Corey Dotson of Ravena practice yoga as goats Benny and Joon climb on Indiana's back.
Gazette reporter Indiana Nash (left) and Corey Dotson of Ravena practice yoga as goats Benny and Joon climb on Indiana's back.

The soothing sounds of yoga instructors are often paired with goat bleats, in the latest yoga trend.

Goat yoga is part animal therapy and part casual yoga class. It all started on a goat farm called No Regrets in Albany, Oregon, last year. Since the classes went viral, the waiting list at No Regrets Farm has reached into the thousands. 

But it seems like the greater Capital Region is getting goat yoga classes of its own.

Yoga instructor and Ashiatsu Barefoot Massage Therapist Dawn Dotson is bringing goat yoga from its sister city in Oregon to Albany, New York. 

“It’s definitely animal therapy,” Dotson said. She runs and owns Barefoot Space in Delmar, where she holds a variety of yoga classes and provides massage therapy. 

It wasn’t until recently that she started holding goat yoga classes at local farms and she already has people signing up for her next class on July 8. 

The class starts out with a few basic yoga poses — Dotson teaches hatha yoga for these classes — and goats mingle around, softly bleating and trying to make sense of the mats and people that have come into their field. 

“It takes a little while for them to be comfortable, but then they just start getting under people and laying on people’s mats,” Dotson said 

A few minutes into the session, laughter competes with the goats’ bleating. As the yogis go into downward-facing dog, some adventurous goats sometimes jump on top of their backs, while shyer goats come to rest beneath them. 

In Dotson’s class, there were around 20 goats, for a ratio of one goat to every two people. The goats are usually young dwarf Nigerian goats, which come in at 21 inches long. 

About 90 percent of the class are people new to yoga, said Dotson. But the point of goat yoga isn’t necessarily getting a great workout in. It’s more about the laughter and spending time with the goats, according to Dotson.

“They may do a little more meditation and breath work than usual, but there’s definitely going to be a distraction of goats, which is soulful,” Dotson said. 

Earlier this year, Dotson adopted two goats of her own, Joon and Benny, and they were the catalyst for her first goat yoga class.

“I had just got them and didn’t want to leave them alone at home, so I took them to my studio,” Dotson said. That day, Barefoot Studios was hosting a birthday party and the party-goers’ reactions to the goats convinced her that she might be able to make it a more permanent class.  

“It’s also a way to support local farms,” Dotson said. She’s hosted one class at 4J’s Farm in Averill Park and is slated to hold another at JayFlora in Fonda. Dotson hopes to bring awareness to other local farms through the classes.

Goat yoga at Hancock Shaker Village

Another instructor, based in New York City, brought goat yoga to Hancock Shaker Village for a similar reason in late May. Although instructor Alison Walter didn’t have much experience with goat yoga instructing, she had good reason to start at the Village.

“They have two wooden silos that were damaged in a storm,” Walter said. The silos were built in 1908 and had become an integral part of the Village. However, the cost of restoring them was around $90,000. 

According to Jennifer Trainer Thompson, the executive director of Hancock Shaker Village, the goat yoga classes helped the Village raise over their $90,000 goal. 

“The final push for the fundraiser were these goat yoga classes,” Walter said. She held two yoga courses at first. But the first sold out so quickly that they added a third for all the people on the waiting list. 

Each class had around 50 people and about 15 goats. 

“People were leaving the class and asking ‘When’s the next goat yoga class? When can we do this again?’ ” Walter said, “So I said, ‘We’ll make it happen.’ ” 

She’s back teaching at the Village on July 1.

In her day job, Walter works in a variety of schools and studios in New York City, bringing yoga to students to help them relax, concentrate, and improve their schoolwork. 

From Walter’s perspective, goat yoga brings the physical benefits of yoga together with the mental and emotional benefits of animal therapy. 

“I believe in animal therapy. I think animals are kind and gentle and it helps people feel good about themselves to be around them. So combining animal therapy and yoga is an amazing match because it provides both the good-natured animals as well as soothing breath and movement. Then throw in the fact that you’re outside really creates a beautiful experience,” Walter said.  

During one class, in particular, one yogi was trying to hold boat pose — where the stomach muscles are working to hold the legs up at a 90-degree angle from the body — when a baby goat came and rested beneath her legs to hold her up.

“It was so beautiful,” Walter said. 

This year, the classes come with admission into the Village, which Walter hopes will help further support and bring awareness to it. 

Goat Yoga With Dawn Dotson of Barefoot Space

WHEN: 11 a.m. – 12:15 p.m., Sat. July 8
WHERE: 4 J’s Farm, 4 High Meadow Road, Averill Park

WHEN: 6 – 7:15 p.m., Tues. July 25
WHERE: Jayflora Designs, Fonda 

Goat Yoga with Alison Walter at Hancock Shaker Village

WHEN: 10 – 11 a.m., Sat. July 1 and 15 
WHERE: Hancock Shaker Village, 1843 West Housatonic St., Pittsfield, MA

Categories: Life and Arts, News

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