Some yoga lovers may spend relaxing afternoons outside in the fall breeze, inhaling and exhaling as they move into their favorite poses. A new trend has them doing it with a goat on their baaa-ck.
Goat Yoga, or “Goga,” has taken over Austin since Labor Day weekend, sending Texans into a goat yoga craze. What began as a benefit for Hurricane Harvey victims has turned into a recurring, $35+ per person event that attracts hundreds and provides funds for recovery efforts across the country.
Rachael Phillips co-founded Goat Yoga with her boyfriend Trey Kitchen. She said everyone keeps asking her what goat yoga is.
“I’m like ‘obviously it’s yoga with goats,’ but then I think back to when I first saw it on social media, and I think ‘gosh this is so crazy,’” Phillips said.
After picking up on goat yoga via social media posts about the new fitness trend, Phillips decided to become a “gogi” when she discovered Kitchen’s mother worked with 2 Crazy Goat Ladies, a Texas Pygmy Nigerian Dwarf Goat breeding company.
“Before Hurricane Harvey even happened, I had the idea we could do a Goat Yoga fundraiser to raise money for something,” Phillips said. “After Harvey happened, I wanted to find another way to give back.”
Kitchen said they spoke with his mother to organize the first class on the roof of his apartment building’s parking garage and to figure out all the logistics, from transporting the baby goats in an air-conditioned SUV with their mothers to dressing them in diapers and onesies.
Though the couple expected a modest gathering for the Austin debut of Goat Yoga, their event sold out in only 37 minutes.
“We created an event and invited our friends to it,” Phillips said. “The next day there were hundreds of people RSVPing, and it was blowing up.”
Since their first class, Kitchen said every session has sold out in less than 24 hours. They’ve received requests for corporate retreats, company visits and even bachelorette parties. As they grow, Kitchen said they try to continue giving to charities whenever possible.
“We come up with three different charity groups that are helping out disaster relief, and we let the people who are taking the class vote on which charity they would like to donate the money to,” Kitchen said. “With Hurricane Harvey, we were able to donate a little over $1,000 to the Houston Humane Society.”
Hailley Schwartz, one of the yoga instructors, said it is especially relaxing to have baby animals walking around because their cuteness helps relieve stress.
“We in society are disconnected from animals outside of cats and dogs,” Schwartz said. “Goats, bunnies, lambs and other kinds of yoga classes coming around boost the happy level so much because animals are so adorable, innocent and make people happy on a very fundamental level. I don’t think a lot of people get that in their daily life.”
Schwartz said she tries to teach the class in a way that encourages interaction with the animals, and she reminds people they are welcome to take any opportunities to play, snuggle or snap pictures with the animals throughout the class.
“I try to lead a class that leads the goats toward jumping on their back or snuggling,” Schwartz said. “I let everyone know the goats are first, so if a goat comes to your mat and decides to snuggle there, please take that opportunity.”
Trevor said this interaction with the animals has had people raving about the class, saying it was exactly what they needed after a long week.
“Goats will be goats,” Trevor said. “So we have no problem having them run around and jump and make funny noises.”