What was your first reaction when you heard the term “goat yoga?” Were you in disbelief? Were you confused? If you were like the rest of us, you couldn’t believe people were actually willingly participating in yoga with live goats. But it’s happening. People are doing yoga exercise programs with goats, and some people say it’s the best thing to ever happen to health and fitness.

Why exactly is goat yoga popular? Is it actually beneficial? We have all of the information about this new yoga and fitness craze. You might be relaxing and saying “namaste” to a goat in the future. Can you even imagine that?

Where it started

Albany, Oregon resident Lainey Morse started the goat yoga trend in 2016 on her farm with ten goats. She hosted a “goat happy hour,” in which she invited people to come to her farm and relax with goats. If they felt stressed or sick, they could forget about their troubles for at least an hour.

“The goats would help people forget about everything,” Morse said. But she quickly realized how powerful goats were to her mental health. “I would come home from work every day and go sit out in the field with my goats. It was just impossible to be sad or depressed because they make you forget.”

This was important to Morse, who was diagnosed with an illness following her divorce. She was undergoing a lot of stress and knew others felt the same way as her, so she offered the goat happy hour. It didn’t take long for Morse’s farm to be a popular place to host parties and other social gatherings.

It was at one party when Morse was approached by a yoga instructor, who asked if she could host a yoga class on the farm. Morse warned her that the goats would be everywhere, but the instructor didn’t mind. During the session, goats climbed on top of the participants. Morse took photographs of the unusual spectacle, shared it on social media, and “goat yoga” was officially born.

Becoming more popular

By January 2017, Morse had a 1,200-person waiting list for her goat yoga classes. People couldn’t get enough of the new trend. She now offers classes five days a week, but she expects to add more classes to keep up with the high demand. Morse’s farm is visited by people from all over the world and every one of these individuals is eager to play with goats but also find a new way to relax. “Goats have a sense of calm, yet they’re really funny and mischievous animals,” Morse said. “I think when people come, they don’t have any interaction with goats, so they’re really surprised by how social and friendly they are.”

Goats have a natural bond with people, and yoga instructors agree goats are the perfect companions for yoga participants. They get you to relax and laugh with people from all walks of life. Morse is happy the trend started, and she doesn’t think it’ll disappear any time soon.

Making a career

Morse didn’t plan to make a career of goat yoga, but in her first year of business, she earned $160,000 in revenue. The business grew so quickly that she could leave her full-time marketing job in November 2017. It was a scary decision leaving a job with a secure paycheck and medical benefits, but it was worthwhile to finally have a relaxing job that coordinated with her schedule.

But it wasn’t always easy. Morse faced many roadblocks on her way to starting her career. First, she tried to trademark “Goat Yoga,” but her application was denied because the term was “too generic.” When she noticed other companies began referring to themselves as “goat yoga,” she was frustrated because it was her original idea. She finally decided to name her company Original Goat Yoga, so everyone would know she was the first goat yoga company.

Morse was also verbally attacked and criticized by animal activists, who believed “goat yoga” was harmful to the animals. She fought through the attacks, eventually spending thousands of dollars on tents to protect outdoor sessions during inclement weather, but also to protect the goats. She also bought special mats for customers.

Morse’s business has grown so much that she has brought in partners who provide farm property and more goats, specifically Nigerian Dwarf goats. Morse enjoys spending time with the goats, but what she enjoys most is seeing how happy they make other people who attend her classes.

Morse said, “I remember a lady coming. She says, ‘I almost didn’t come. I bought my tickets a while ago and my husband was diagnosed with cancer, and I’ve been his caregiver and it’s been so hard on me.’ The woman had planned to cancel her goat yoga session, but her daughter talked her out of it. She said, ‘It’s been the best decision I could’ve made because it’s the first time I’ve smiled in months.’ That’s powerful.”

The benefits of goat yoga

Goat yoga isn’t a traditional yoga experience, but it’s designed to put participants in a good mood. Immediate side effects include decreased blood pressure, a positive effect on the immune system, and goat yoga reverses the stress response with lowered levels of cortisol.

Goats make you laugh and health experts say laughter brings more oxygen to the body and brain, fosters positive feelings, and improves interpersonal skills. So, laugh all you want. Relax with goats. They’ll bring you peace and positive wellbeing. Can you say, “Bahhhmaste?”