Animal Therapy

No kidding around! Goat therapy is a real thing.
Meet the new breed of therapists: a lovely goatherd.

by Charlotte DeFazio

Lainey Morse had been going through a difficult year, coping with divorce and a diagnosis of an immune system disorder. It wasn’t until the former Oregon marketing executive started spending quality time playing with the Nigerian

Dwarf goats on her farm that she began to notice considerable mind-body improvement. “I’m a hard sell when it comes to alternative therapies,” Morse says, “but I was forgetting I was in pain. It was impossible to be depressed.”

Friends hearing of the ad hoc therapy began stopping by the farm for quick cheering up with the playful goats. When local yoga instructor Heather Davis envisioned a therapeutic mashup linking goat play with her practice, Goat Yoga was born.

Practicing yoga around animals, says Morse, decreases stress and boosts happiness: Goats are a funny breed, apt to make you laugh, which is the best medicine—that and love, something naturally exuded by these innocent creatures. Morse believes in letting the goats (most are rescues) roam free, and is against circus-like practices of coercing them to do anything they don’t want to do.

“I think the therapy happens when you’re outdoors and you’re going into the goat’s world instead of making them come into a human level,” she says. They might jump on your back while you’re in cow pose or snuggle up for a ‘goat hug,’ but most often they’ll simply lay on your yoga mat hoping to be petted.

The experience is well worth hoofing it out of NYC to locations in Pennsylvania or Upstate New York, and if you’re planning to rent a room nearby, check out the events that combine goat yoga with organic wine and beer tasting.

For those outside of the East Coast, Goat Yoga can also be found in Michigan, Oregon and Kentucky. After reaping the benefits of a Goat Yoga class, consider checking into The Goatel, a goat-filled vacation destination in Oregon, opening at a historic country inn this fall. Classes from $35.