There are several different disciplines of yoga, from Anada to Yin and many others in between.
But, with apologies to Bikram Yoga, or hot yoga, the hottest thing out there — and definitely the cutest — might just be goat yoga.
Yes, goat yoga. It is as you might expect — yoga and goats, in harmony, and recently, at the Wellness Center at Florida Hospital Wesley Chapel (FHWC).
“I’ve taken regular (yoga) classes in the past and when I saw the chance to do this one, I thought, ‘Yeah, I’m in,’” Wesley Chapel resident Tammy Knoll-Anderson said after finishing class. “It’s fun to be around and interact with the animals and it’s nice being outside.”
Indeed, modern afficionados have incorporated animals into their yoga practices. Cat and puppy yoga gained popularity for a time, but have been superseded by goat yoga, a craze that is sweeping the country. It has been featured nationally on ABC, CBS, NBC and CNN, and USA Today profiled goat yoga in places like Colorado, Florida, New Jersey and Oregon, the latter of which, the article said, was the birthplace of goat yoga.
Obviously, the goats are not demonstrating or performing a Bharadvaja’s Twist or downward dogs, but they are offering support in the form of their calm nature, and maybe a few kisses along the way.
According to GoatYoga.net, goat yoga is a form of Animal-Assisted Therapy in the context of an instructor-led yoga session. Obviously, the aim is for an outdoor session and the goats don’t participate in the exercises so much as provide ambiance.
FHWC just happened to have all the right ingredients available — land (most important) and a desire to be creative, in order to offer a goat yoga class, the morning of Feb. 24.
“At the fitness center, we talk about thinking outside the box and engaging the community,” FHWC director of community wellness Barbara Morris says. “The hospital said we could use the pavilion behind the building, and the pieces began to fall in place.”
Morris looked for an instructor willing to teach the class. She found FHWC Wellness Center yoga instructor Rachel Jimenez a willing participant.
The goats themselves came from Fortune Teller Farms in Bushnell. Jeff Bogue, who is the program manager of ambulance services for the hospital, and his wife Amy have operated the farm since 2013.
The Bogues followed their dream, and now own and operate an all-natural, grass-fed beef and pasture-raised pork farm. The nine goats they have are all rescues, and while they do try to harvest milk from some of them, for the most part, they are pets.
When Jeff heard about the goat yoga notion from Barbara, the wheels were set into motion.
“I remember when I first mentioned it to Amy, she laughed, thinking I was joking with her,” Jeff says. “The next thing I know, I’m in Barbara’s office working on an ad for the class.”
Under the shade of the pavilion located behind the main building, the very first goat yoga class was hosted at FHWC on Feb. 24, with roughly 30 participants who enjoyed interacting with a handful of the Bogue family’s goats during the session.
The Bogues, with help from Morris and fitness program coordinator Linda Harris, put up temporary, plastic fencing around the pavilion to contain the animals, and placed small piles of feed near the yoga participants to encourage the goats to physically interact.
The goats needed little persuasion as they nibbled at clothing, some even jumping up on top of students’ backs or bellies. Two-week old Chief was one of the more popular goats, easily perching on students as they negotiated different poses. Jimenez says she was eager to try teaching her first goat yoga class.
“I have taken goat yoga but I had never taught it before,” Jimenez says. “The goats offer some humor and lightness to a session. There’s a seriousness to yoga and goats kind of balance that out.”
Goats also have a curious nature and while they’ll eat just about anything, Jeff says they make good candidates for interaction with a yoga class.
“The goats are ideal for this,” he says. “They’re calm, they like to interact with people and they’re clean, for the most part.”
The nice turnout for the goat yoga class could mean the return of Chief and his friends — the Wellness Center is already planning for a second class at the end of April.
For more info, call (813) 929-5252.