Go for Goat Yoga? Behind the Trends in Exercise and Stress Relief


A pet goat on the White Mesa Ute Indian reservation.

By Hannah Keating, Arts Editor


In the last few years, fitness studios have exploded with new types of workouts. Exercises all across the board have risen in popularity — pole dancing, drumming workouts like PoundFit, dance-based barre classes or Zumba sessions and even extreme temperature workouts like hot yoga or Brrrn. Trainers are expanding on styles of workouts and combining various techniques for new ways to exercise. Yoga styles especially have evolved to include pilates, aerial techniques, trampolines and paddleboards. But what about goats?

Goat Yoga, often referred to by the portmanteau Goga, takes a normal yoga practice — usually hatha — and adds baby goats that participate in certain positions by jumping on backs during planks or getting up close and personal in downward dog. Goga founder Lainey Morse’s company described the goats in yoga by saying, “They might jump on your back, stare into your soul, burp in your ear or give goat hugs — trust me, it’s a thing. Most often they’ll just lay down on your yoga mat and snuggle up next to you just as you perfect your pose.” 

However, Goga didn’t start as an idea to develop a new exercise. It started on Morse’s farm in Albany, Oregon. She would do yoga as a stress reliever outside, where her baby goats would sometimes join in. She enjoyed the time so much that she started inviting groups of friends to partake in what she called “Goat Happy Hour” as a way to care for her goats as well as her own body. It soon expanded to a booming business with locations across the country. 

This is where the Goga Guys come in. They quickly caught on to the growing trend of goat yoga and wanted to bring it to Utah. For three years now, they have held Goga sessions in multiple locations across the valley, selling out nearly every week due to popularity. A class of theirs hosts around 30 people engaged in a yoga practice for about 40 minutes and then have the remainder of the hour just to play with the baby goats. Their classes are beginner focused and designed for a non-judgmental environment.

“Our classes are not like your average yoga session. Here, everyone is laughing and having a good time,” said the Goga Guys said. “It’s all about the goats anyway!”

The big question is: does this practice actually do anything? Critics of the goat yoga fad argue that it’s not something you should spend your time and money on — it’s not the most challenging workout and the jury’s still out on specific scientific benefits. However, those who enjoy it preach its benefits in overall happiness and stress relief. Outside of an hour of yoga alone, goga uses a similar technique to other forms of animal therapy found in service dog use or bringing pets into hospitals. It’s proven that there is a positive reaction in human brains to “cute” things, so these baby goats with large eyes actually trigger a release of mood-lifting chemicals. 

Surprisingly enough, goat yoga isn’t the only fad that is designed to do just that. An emerging practice of laughter yoga is all about engaging this childlike sense of play to spark happiness. Participants engage in exaggerated laughter and movement which produces a real sense of joy. Sounds strange? It can be, but it’s something you have to give yourself over to without skepticism to truly appreciate. For those who take goat yoga classes, it’s not about pushing the hardest. Instead, it’s about letting the playful nature of baby goats spark something joyous within you.

“It’s a time to just have fun and not worry about the stress and craziness of life. Goats just bring out the best in everyone,” said the Goga Guys.

Unlike some workouts profess, Goga isn’t glamorous. It’ll have you stuck in an uncomfortable downward dog position surrounded by the smell of goat pee and poo while the baby goat beside you chews on your mat. But at the same time, it’s a fun, restorative and accessible form of exercise and emotional self-care as well as an experience that is completely unique. To anyone on the fence, the Guys said, “We encourage all to try it, you don’t even have to know how to do yoga. We love sharing our goats and the joy they bring!”

The Goga Guys hold sessions at the Gateway in Salt Lake, the Summerhill Event Center in Saratoga Springs and at Zermatt Resort in Midway. Reservations for a class can be made through their website.

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