Trends come and go but hopefully the true meanings behind them stay. Kelly Mitchell, the owner of Buddha Barn Yoga & Wellness in North Bellmore, New York, was ahead of the curve when it came to the goat yoga craze. “Obviously it’s very popular and trendy right now, but the reason I was attracted to it is because yoga is basically connection,” said Mitchell. “That’s what yoga is all about, and if you’re connecting to an animal or connecting in nature, that’s the perfect fusion of what yoga is.”
Mitchell does goat yoga as a separate entity from her studio, and uses the opportunity to raise awareness for goats rescued from slaughter houses and negligent owners. She works with a farm owner in Long Island who supplies the goats and they host the classes at a Historical Society nearby.
“It ropes them in with the trend but all for a reason,” said Mitchell. Her goal is to raise awareness for rescue, adoption and possibly people’s relationships with food, advocating for the possibility of not eating meat and viewing animals as pets.
As for other pets, Mitchell has experience doing yoga with puppies and kittens at her studio as well. She explained if you’re going to do yoga with animals, goats are wonderful for the interaction and connection. While puppies and kittens scurry and hide during practice, goats are friendly and curious.
Mitchell said goats will lay on your mat, and even climb on your back during downward dog or table top positions. Goats are naturally attracted to humans, especially the babies that have been rescued and bottle fed. Because they look at that person as their mom, they want to be nurtured through cuddling, petting and holding from humans.
Mitchell also explained by incorporating being outside in the fresh air, students are able to broaden their horizons. During these classes she reminds students yoga is not just about physical postures, but instead being present in the moment and moving your body while connecting your breath. When your hands and feet are in the grass, there’s a unique connection to Earth and everything around you.
The most challenging aspect during goat yoga is keeping everybody engaged in the yoga practice. Mitchell’s method is to be light and easy, and let people enjoy themselves without too much rigidity. One example of how she changes it up in comparison to traditional yoga is the eyes are usually closed during Savasana, but during goat yoga she always encourage students to keep their eyes open and just take it all in — the weather, the sky, the grass and the goats coming up to you.
“You kind of have to go with the flow,” said Mitchell. “The first thing I say when I start the practice is I won’t take it personally if you’re not listening to me. It’s like I’m giving them the OK to have fun, because we should never take yoga too seriously.”