Giddy for Gregarious Goats
Hottest New Fitness Craze Hits North County Farm
In the world of sports, the acronym G.O.A.T. denotes to “greatest of all time.” In the broader world of fitness, “goat” as an adjective has been seen to precede “yoga.” The acronym form of the four-legged ruminant, however, is arguably just as fitting a descriptor for the revitalized version of the ancient Hindu practice as the latter. Don’t want to take my word for it? The classes at Sugar Sweet Farm in Encinitas will surely persuade you that yoga with goats is indeed the “greatest of all time.”
Business partners Elizabeth and Sissy Sugarman offered their first class last February, just as the hottest new fitness craze began taking the internet by storm. For the Sugarmans, however, the classes are about more than just keeping up with the trends. “We love bringing people to the farm and connecting them to the animals,” sixteen-year-old Sissy shares. Moreover, community service is embedded into the mission of the family-run farm and Sissy has hosted free classes for girl scout troops and 4-H groups, as well as a fundraiser for the Challenged Athletes Foundation.
“Everyone loves it. Teenagers love it, kids have loved it, husbands who get dragged here love it,” Elizabeth said with a smile. And by “it,” she means balancing a goat on your back during table-top, cuddling with a kid during Savasana, and letting out a “baa” instead of an “om.”
The experience, however, is about more than just the novelty of having goats around while practicing yoga. The goats have an incredible ability to enhance one’s yoga practice, not because they’re masters of meditation or because they hold downward dogs better than hounds themselves, but because they bring with them an innocence and playfulness that not all animals possess. Elizabeth explains, “They have no agenda except whatever is coming in the moment. So, they’re not planning moves, they’re just reacting to their environment.” Participants tend to adopt this in-the-moment attitude from their four-legged friends and before they can even bleat, they’re lulled into a beautiful, peaceful, meditative state of being.
Because goats are prey animals, they shy away from anything that seems taller, prouder, or braver than they. Elizabeth notices that “anytime we’re below them, we’re not a predator anymore; we’re accessible.” Because of this, the program is adjusted so that many of the poses are done on the floor, which increases the likelihood of goat cuddles.
“There’s something very grounding about it,” Elizabeth continues. Senses are ignited by the smell of recycled grass, the sound of clucking chickens, and the feeling of the sturdy ground beneath one’s fingers. A sort of synergy is created by the mutually beneficial interactions between human and goat. “And people smile, and they realize after an hour they smiled the whole time and we’re not doing that enough in our lives.”
One of the greatest things about the Sugar Sweet Farm goat yoga experience is that the yoga is just as amazing as the goats. “It’s an all-round fulfilling experience,” Sissy reassures. The more experienced yogi can flow through vinyasas and interact with the goats on the side, while those who prefer a more subdued practice can spend much of their time cuddling with any of the four kids.
Anyone interested in witnessing the magic should keep in mind that as much as we anthropomorphize, goats are still animals and can be unpredictable. Elizabeth admits, “I really don’t know how they’re going to behave. That’s kind of how it works when 20 animals are the star of your show.” Sometimes the goats are tired and will curl up and fall asleep. Sometimes the goats are lively and will skip around, flopping their heads from side to side and swinging their hind legs up as they jump. But the goats are always, always ready to give and receive love so that by the end of class, “everyone gets at least one goat kiss.”
To learn more about Sugar Sweet Farm or to find out when the next goat yoga class is, visit sugarsweetfarm.com.
Photo Credit to Kalli Anderson