Goat Yoga In CT: More For The Soul Than The Body

Goat yoga, the newest trend in workouts, is a cross between a fitness class and a petting zoo. Since most people would rather cuddle baby animals than exercise, the petting zoo seems to win out.

At a recent class in a barn in the Danielson section of Killingly, about 25 people — all but one of them female — sit on mats and follow the movements of instructor Lindsey Vezina for a few moments: breathe in, breathe out, reach, stretch. Soothing music and the sound of wind in the trees, chirping birds and a crowing rooster create a relaxing atmosphere.

Then the farm owner, Michelle Lyon, and her two assistants walk in with armloads of baby Nigerian dwarf goats and set them gently on the floor. The meditative groove gives way to uncontrollable giggling and selfies, which doesn't stop for the next hour as kids rambled among the humans, sniffing, maaing, standing still for snuggles, sometimes chewing the fringe on blankets.

"People do concentrate on the yoga. But if a goat wanders by, all bets are off," Lyon says.

Several locales in Connecticut —Danielson, Manchester, Hamden, Monroe, Putnam and Morris — offer goat yoga classes. Lyon, owner of Kingdom Kids Farm, says the classes are "always over-filled."

Goat yoga has been a trend since last year, when an Oregon farmer thought to combine downward dogs with roaming goats. The feel-good fitness craze caught on instantly, got national coverage and spread around the country.

"It's the only class where I encourage people to have their cellphones at their mats and take pictures," says Elaina Wiener, owner of Blue Lotus Yoga in Monroe.

Nadeau Farm in Hamden holds goat (and lamb) yoga every Saturday and Sunday to raise funds for the farm's livestock-rescue operation.

"Goats are perfect. They are so social," says Leah Hilton of Nadeau. "Goats are used now as therapy animals. When you hold them, you can feel the stress going out of your body."

At the Danielson session, Vezina, of Putnam, gave a brief instruction before the class, as did Lyon.

"If you want to visit with them, it's OK if you don't follow along," Vezina says. Lyon tells group that the goats may chew on their hair, thinking that it is hay. She adds that the goats might poop or pee. This wound up happening, and Lyon spends the hour running around the barn with a roll of paper towels to clean up messes.

One woman whose space was invaded a little too closely by a peeing goat takes it in stride.

"I got a free T-shirt because of it," says Denise Sharkey of Voluntown, who enjoyed the class. "It has a fun energy," she said.

Brian Samsel of Newington, the session's only male member, says he had a lot of fun. "The goats are a nice distraction," Samsel says. His friend, Bernadette Conway of Newington, found it "therapeutic, seeing them wander around."

Lyon and her business partner use the goats' milk to make soap. Lyon also raises goats to be sold as pets. She said goat yoga helps the goats, too.

"When somebody buys a goat, they want to interact with it," Lyon says. "They get used to being around people, getting petted, getting attention. They want interaction, love, they want to be scratched."

Vezina admits that "people who are super-serious about their yoga" might not enjoy goat yoga, because the class has a different focus.

"It's not a quiet, meditative class," she says. "You come to get your heart warmed."

GOAT YOGA is held at The Milk Shanty, 9 John Bennett Road in Putnam; Aussakita Acres Farm, 555 Lydall St. in Manchester; Kingdom Kids Farm, 651 Cook Hill Road in the Danielson section of Killingly; Nadeau Farm, 74 Calamus Meadow Road in Hamden; Blue Lotus Yoga, 731 Main St. in Monroe; and Bramasole Wellness, 57 Slab Meadow Road in Morris. Prices and class times vary. For schedules and to sign up, visit the venues' Facebook pages or websites.

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