Move over Vancouver and look out New York, goat yoga is taking Anola by storm — but there is a Manitoba twist to the growing fitness trend.
“It’s goat yoga, but it’s also more than that,” said Tara McKean, owner of 10 Acre Woods near Anola, which recently added yoga sessions to its roster. “It’s goat-farm yoga, because it’s all the animals that are out there, not just the goats.”
Participants grab a mat and head through two sets of gates before claiming a patch of ground atop a small hill. Then, just as the yoga instructor guides them into their first pose, the ark unloads its bounty.
“I’ll put down some initial, thanks for coming because I called you grain, and then they just hang out. They walk in between them, the ones that can walk underneath them do, the ducks are even walking through them,” said McKean, who is on hand throughout the yoga classes, keeping a watchful eye on animals and humans alike. “Currently we have goats, sheep and an Alpaca, ducks, geese, pigeons, a peacock, chickens, turkeys, two different kinds of pigs, rabbits, dogs… and I think that’s about it.”
But it’s the goats that are the stars of the show, jumping on and off of participants, exploring, smelling and occasionally nibbling the odd shoelace.
“The babies are of course babies, so they chew on shoelaces and all that, but their attention span is about an hour — the animals, not the humans — and then they will just kind of lie down on this person’s mat or that person’s mat,” she said. “It’s truly really neat to see.”
For Christine Collett, a yoga instructor used to teaching outdoor classes, the chance to lead goat yoga was too good an opportunity to pass up.
“A friend tagged me on Facebook, asking me if I’d ever want to teach yoga with goats and I laughed, thinking that sounded pretty cool, like the best job ever, but also thinking it was in the States or somewhere else. Then I looked closer and I was like, wait a minute! I think this is in Canada!” she said. A few days later she had connected with McKean and was signed up as one of the six yoga instructors who teach at the animal rescue and petting farm.
“You’re not the centre of attention with goat yoga, that’s for sure, it’s more about the animals… people are more likely to be interacting with the animals than to be paying attention to the yoga,” she said, adding there has been no shortage of humorous moments during the hour-long classes.
“We’ve have goats jumping on people’s backs, on their bums, roosters on people… I’ve had a goat fall asleep between my legs while I was in a pose, it’s random, but it happens often.”
But once the goats have a nibble and participants finish taking goat selfies, classes do begin to develop a calming rhythm everyone seems to enjoy.
“Even the animals feel it,” Collett said. “Usually when we start yoga it is really loud and then as soon as we get into the yoga flow even animals get quiet. It’s like everybody knows it’s calm time.”
McKean, who founded 10 Acre Woods two decades ago, said the yoga classes are as much as about connecting with animals as they are about mindful stretching.
“I’m not a yoga person, but I mean I’ve always been a huge believer in animal therapy,” she said. “And to put it with a healthy, living aspect like the yoga, it just adds a whole other dimension. It is about the animals and animal therapy, but when you do yoga, you’re also getting into a meditative state, so now you are more open to the animal therapy.”
Whatever the draw, there has been no shortage of participants eager to add some goat to their downward dog. Andrew Bonden and Kendra O’Hearn drove out from Ontario for the day, just to see what the experience would be like.
“We came out from Kenora just because Kendra loves baby goats,” said Bonden, adding he’d been looking for something unusual and fun to try over a weekend. When asked if he would do it again, his answer was a resounding, “absolutely.”
McKean, or “head momma” as she is sometimes called, doesn’t see interest in goat yoga slowing down any time soon, adding even bachelorette groups have made inquiries in recent days.
“People like goats,” she said. “People really like spending time with them.”