Yoga is typically practiced in a controlled environment: The temperature is set, the lights are dimmed just so and there is often some ambient music playing softly.
But when I pressed into my first downward-facing dog Saturday, the constant, ambient noise I heard was: “Nom, nom, nom, nom, nom.”
And the occasional bleat.
Goat yoga — yes, yoga practiced among goats — has caught fire in places such as Oregon, but Saturday heralded, as far as we know, the first public goat yoga class in Washington state, at Snohomish’s The Wobbly Ranch.
It’s a rescue farm for goats, and co-owner Amanda Leone Carner hopes to build a barn so she can take in more kids. She wants to share the experience of communing with the curious, loving goats on her way to raising money toward that goal.
“This is an experience,” she says. “This is something you don’t get every day.”
“The goats love it,” she insists.
Despite its over-representation among women’s dating profiles, I truly love yoga, and a quick peek at my Facebook feed will readily reveal that I also love goats. So goat yoga, to me, is one of the best concepts I could possibly imagine.
Students at The Wobbly Ranch are advised ahead of time to wear closed-toed shoes, despite yoga typically being a barefoot activity, and to watch for poop. Only one of those warnings was truly necessary, which we’ll revisit.
The Wobbly Ranch is set among the lush, rolling hills outside of Snohomish, overseen by circling hawks. Carner’s husband, Mark, greeted the cars turning into the driveway.
The outdoor yoga studio, penned in by a perhaps two-foot-high fence, already is set with black yoga mats (so you don’t have to bring your own). Inside, yogis were joined by Nubian goat Bambi, Nigerian dwarf Olaf (Bambi’s boyfriend), and 15-week-old babies Seamus, Mouse and Lulu Chardonnay.
Deviating from typical yoga etiquette, the attendees had cameras out, helplessly cooing at the adorable goats. (I tried to keep it buttoned up, despite my impulse to scream, “EHRMAGERD GOATIE POOOOOOOS.”)
Each of them performed their own downward-facing goat; that is to say, they were more interested in the munchery on the ground than the human visitors.
Before practice began, I already had to shake some fecal pellets off my mat.
If you’re still wondering: No, goats do not perform the yoga with you. They mainly wander and eat while Rachel Eklund leads the practice.
The attendees ranged from experienced yogis who can perform a bound, extended side-angle, to brand-new yogis who probably just wanted to chill with goats. A few students were clearly there not to exercise, but to pad their Instagram accounts.
The Wobbly Ranch goat yoga sessions are two hours long — one hour for yoga and the other for just visiting with and cuddling the goats.
Eklund guided the class through several sun salutations and balancing postures, modifying some of the names of the poses to fit the theme, such as “downward-facing goat” and “three-legged goat.”
I stoically flowed through most of the poses despite the uneven grass beneath me that didn’t always support my postures too well. But, seriously, who cares? There were goats to gawk at.
They crossed our mats. They laid beside some yogis. They pooped and even peed among us. They mostly gnashed their teeth on some grass. Olaf jumped in and out of the yoga pen as he pleased. Most yogis, including myself, broke poses to pet the nearest passing goat. And I still got a thorough workout.
In this more free-form yoga class, the session was marked with laughter.
Even Seattle resident Tina Kaps had a goat lean against her with its front hooves during a pose.
The Wobbly Ranch is a farm Carner and her husband bought at Christmas 2015 when the former Bothell residents adopted a three-legged goat named Trippy.
From the beginning, the farm was a refuge for abused and neglected goats and now houses 10 goats, acquired through various rescue organizations.
Bambi, who wore small pink tennis balls at the ends of her horns in case she used them to nudge somebody, was recovered from a field filled with dead animals, including her mother.
Veterinarians found a hole in her heart and gave her one month to live.
But Olaf came to The Wobbly Ranch about three weeks later and has remained at Bambi’s side ever since. The couple are now just more than 1 year old.
“Olaf filled the hole in Bambi’s heart,” Carner says.
Olaf’s twin brother died of tetanus acquired during castration, Carner says. The departure of his brother left Olaf “broken-hearted” until he met Bambi at the farm.
Babies Mouse and Seamus are twins whose mother was pulled out of a slaughterhouse when it was found she was pregnant. The blond Lulu Chardonnay was herself born in a slaughterhouse.
In addition to the yoga companions, five bigger male goats were left behind in their own grazing areas, too large to mill about for yoga. They were born at a dairy, where they would have been slaughtered within days of being born, Carner says.
Now, in her effort to build a goat barn, Carner can spread the infectious goofiness of goats to their visitors.
“This brings people a lot of joy,” she says. “This brings the goats lots of joy, too.”
“They want to be part of it all,” she added.
So how did the very first session of goat yoga go?
“I think everybody had a really good time,” Carner says. “Olaf might have stolen the show.”
Kaps, of Green Lake, like me, loves yoga and goats and couldn’t wait for a chance to combine the two. She wanted to do the goat yoga in Oregon, but it was booked solid. A January Oregonian article reported the wait list was 900 people long. So she was thrilled to find goat yoga closer to home.
“They’re so fun and friendly and I wanted to spend time with them,” she said. “It’s really, really fun.”
“The experience is good, I would do it again,” she added.
The first weekend of goat yoga sold out before it began and future weekends are filling up, Carner says.
So, nobody go there, because I want to be able to visit again.