The practice of yoga has been around for centuries, but it wasn’t until recently that goats were invited to be a part of the action. In August of 2016, Lainey Morse decided to open up her farm in Albany, Oregon, for goat yoga—a class she describes as the ultimate happy, therapeutic experience.
When did you start your farm? What are some of the day-to-day tasks involved in raising animals like goats?
I bought my farm three years ago, and the first thing I did was bring in two goats named Ansel and Adams. I now have ten goats, and many of them are rescues.
My farm is a hobby farm, so I don’t do any farming. But I do have a small garden, four chickens, and two barn cats. I typically feed the goats in the morning and have my morning coffee with them, and then I go to work at goat yoga. Where did you get the idea to hold yoga classes at the farm?
What made you introduce goats into the experience?
I had a friend who asked if I would be interested in donating my time and farm to a child’s birthday party, and during the party we were all standing in the back field with the goats. One of the guests, Heather Davis, turned out to be a yoga instructor and asked if she could hold one of her classes in the field. I joked that the goats would likely be all over the participants.
After I took some promotional photos of her with the goats, we started marketing the class as goat yoga. The first class sold out really quickly, and outlets like the Oregonian and Modern Farmer magazine started to pick it up. Everything has just snowballed from there.
Have you always had a passion for animals? Was this connection between owning animals and starting a yoga business a natural one to make?
I’ve always wanted goats but was never in a position to have them until I moved to my farm. The combination of nature, yoga, and goats is a beautiful one. Goats have a sense of calm about them, but they’re also very funny animals, and laughing is therapeutic. A formal yoga class can be intimidating for those who have never tried it, but goat yoga is a good way to get people to try yoga for the first time.
Most people have heard of dog therapy or equine therapy, but not goat therapy. What makes goats ideal for this type of activity?
Goats are very loving, social, and inquisitive. They also don’t need to bond with humans to interact with them. They can see a human for the first time and just walk up, nuzzle in, and want to be pet. This makes people feel really special, and they aren’t as intimidated by goats as some people are by horses. I really think they will be the new assisted therapy animals.
Does each class teach a different style of yoga? Do certain poses need to be adapted for the different environment?
We do a very basic, all-levels style since many of the people who attend the classes have never even tried yoga before. We do thirty minutes of yoga, and afterward we host a goat happy hour for guests to sit and play with the animals. People shouldn’t take themselves too seriously, and that’s not hard to do when a goat is chewing on your toes. Adults don’t always have the opportunity to get out in nature and just play, laugh, and have fun; we’re giving people that experience. It’s really not as crazy as it may seem. You’re getting out in nature, bonding with an animal, and exercising.
What does a session of goat yoga offer people who are suffering from stress, anxiety, or other common health concerns?
Goat yoga offers happy distractions to people who are experiencing health issues or just day-to-day stress. It’s really hard to be sad and depressed when you have baby goats jumping around you. I know it helps because it helped me, and now I’m seeing what a huge impact it’s having on others. I hear stories all the time from people who come to my class after their last chemo treatment or because they are a caregiver for someone who’s sick. It’s really much better than I anticipated—it’s incredible.
You offer a handful of other events, like yoga and wine tasting. How popular are these events, and what exactly do they entail?
Goat Yoga & Wine Tasting is held in the middle of a vineyard in the Willamette Valley. Wine country in Oregon is absolutely stunning, so this class is our most popular. We do thirty minutes of yoga, and then we have goat happy hour with wine tasting, and a winemaker comes down to explain a little about the selections.
I also organize goat yoga for college students at a local B and B called the Hanson Country Inn, near Oregon State University. I offer those classes at a reduced price for students who may be experiencing stress from school. It’s a big agriculture college, too, so I have a lot of veterinary and animal science students.
Have you ever considered expanding your classes outside of Oregon?
I am currently selling the licensing, and I just signed my first three offshoots of goat yoga in northern Pennsylvania, southern Pennsylvania, and Kentucky.
What is the best part about running a company that makes people happy every day?
I am so thankful for all of this. Everything has been so serendipitous. It’s a dream job to be able to run a business with the sole purpose of making people happy. The most rewarding part for me is when I hear from people who are struggling and get a release when they come to goat yoga. It’s not healing a disease, but it’s making people forget about their problems, if only for just a couple of hours.
For more info, visit goatyoga.net.