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Fitness on the farm: Goat yoga

Yoga has no shortage of rising trends, and the latest one can be found right here on-Island at Native Earth Teaching Farm in Chilmark. Goat yoga began last Saturday, brought to you by Josey Kirkland and five of the cutest pygmy goats you’ve ever seen.

The class began like most others — a range of total beginners and asana addicts assembled cross-legged on their mats in a grid-like formation, facing the front of the room — or in this case, the gated goat space. Instructor Ms. Kirkland invited the group to relax, breathe, and set an intention for the next hour, as farm owner Rebecca Gilbert carried in the goats, one by one. Safe to say everyone’s intention became irreversibly fixated on the same five precious gifts from above.

“My soul …” a girl in the class sighed with a hand on her heart.

Ms. Kirkland led a traditional hour-long vinyasa flow, which is a style of yoga that links breath with alignment-based movement. The pygmies scurried around with a curious sense of wonder, getting acclimated to the group, and to being in a space without their mamas for the first time.

Some warmed up quicker than others, finding comfort on mats, nibbling on toes, and eventually climbing aboard postures. Goats could be found lying on laps and balancing on stomachs and backs.

Alexandra Baackes reached out for some pygmy love.

Goat yoga is stirring up the practice. Instead of silence and audible breathing, the hourlong class was accompanied by constant goat chatter, and the uncontrollable outbursts of human adoration.

“I’m sorry,” an individual said, laughing in hysterics, “it’s licking the back of my knee.”

It’s already hard enough to find empty headspace in a yoga class, and throwing in five outrageously adorable distractions renders it nearly impossible. But the goats offer something different to the world of yoga. They bring in the proven power of animal therapy.

“If I’m in a bad mood, or not feeling well, I’ll go outside and sit with my goats,” Ms. Kirkland said. “Instantly, my endorphins are exploding and everything is good again.”

According to several studies, animal therapy builds on the pre-existing human-animal bond, and can help alleviate many physical and mental issues. It can reduce blood pressure and improve cardiovascular health, as well as release endorphins with a calming effect as a byproduct.

Ms. Kirkland has two goats of her own, and she’s an environmental educator at Felix Neck Wildlife Sanctuary. “Animal therapy makes a lot of sense to me, and yoga makes a lot of sense to me, so this is where I want to put forth all my energy right now,” Ms. Kirkland said.

Ms. Kirkland has been teaching yoga for seven years, but isn’t working in studios anymore. She teaches outdoor classes at Long Point Beach, and now at Native Earth.

Goat yoga has swept the nation this past year. It originated on a farm in Albany, Oregon, and farmers generally support the trend.

Josey Kirkland lead the group through an hourlong vinyasa flow.

“Goats are especially friendly and curious,” Ms. Kirkland said. “They have the right temperament, they’re good at interacting with people, and they acclimate well to situations like these.”

Saturday marked the very first session of goat yoga on-Island, and Ms. Kirkland anticipates things will only get better as everyone gets used to the weekly happy hour. The weather also plays a role, and last Saturday it rained.

“Goats really don’t like wind and rain,” Ms. Kirkland said.

But despite weather and the fact that this was everyone’s first time, the morning was a success, and the zen was only enhanced.

“My heart grew 10 times today,” Traci Cooney said on her way out.

 

Goat Yoga, $25 per session, is offered at Native Earth Teaching Farm on Saturdays at 10 am and Wednesdays at 5:30 pm. Registration is required. Must be 13 years or older to participate. For a complete schedule visit nativeearthteachingfarm.org. Contact joseykirkland@gmail.com for more information.