Goat yoga, the world’s latest fitness craze to originate on a farm, has come to Pilot Mountain, bringing with it the unlikely but delightful combination of yoga and baby goats.
Sunni Goat Farm on Pat Irwin Road here has been offering monthly classes since April. Goat yoga is part fitness class, part petting zoo, and part photo op, all mixed together with a lot of fresh air, fun and baby goat cuddles.
“I had seen it online, and I wanted to try yoga with my goats,” said Melinda Bethune, owner of Sunni Goat Farm.
Bethune and Heather Marshall had been taking yoga instruction classes together and are also studying to become physical therapy assistants at Surry Community College. They alternate instruction duties at the monthly classes.
“She pulled me into it with her,” said Marshall. “It’s supposed to have a calming effect. It soothes people to be hugging and loving on an animal.”
The classes are taught in a fenced enclosure that was the site of an old log cabin that burned down, leaving only two stone chimneys mortared together with mud at each end.
“We think the cabin was from the early 1800s,” said Bethune, “but we haven’t been able to find out for sure.”
On Saturday, grass grows where the cabin once stood, over which 13 humans lay out yoga mats and nine goats all under a year old meander around, the shyer ones standing in the former fireplaces. A tiny miniature pig named Princess Paisley, dressed in a paisley dress and a polka-dot ribbon, is first held by Bethune and later wanders around on her own, looking for treats missed by the goats.
The first class in April had 16 participants and classes now average 12 or 13 people, a mix of newbies and returning yogis looking for more goat love.
Sunni Goat Farm is home to 23 goats. One, Chloe, is a Nigerian Dwarf, and the others are Nigerian Dwarf and fainting goat crosses. Only one of them faints and not often. But she did cause quite a stir when she keeled over at a previous goat yoga class, laughed Bethune.
At the beginning of the class, Bethune tells participants that her goats are inordinately fond of shoelaces, and it is probably best if they toss any shoes with laces over the fence out of feeding range. A few pairs of sneakers are heaved over the fence.
“These are well-mannered little goats,” she said. “I don’t want them jumping up on people uninvited. Their little hooves are kind of intense.”
She tells the class, “If you want the full ‘goat on back’ experience, I’ll put a little food on your back and help one of the goats up.”
“Oh, by the way,” Bethune adds, “they say it’s really good luck if your mat gets peed or pooped on.”
She does not say who the “they” is who said that.
As the class progresses, at points where participants find themselves in a hands and knees position, several of them indicate to Bethune they’d like a goat to hop aboard. She sprinkles goat treats between their shoulder blades and then lifts a goat into position. The goats munch their food, sometimes turn around and ultimately leap off.
Allison Barrett, who has recently moved to Mount Airy from Florida, brought along her son’s girlfriend, Mariah Simon, who is visiting from Los Angeles.
Barrett, who was returning Saturday for another go at goat yoga, said, “It’s fun when you’re in the poses, and the goats come up and sit on your mat. And you say, ‘This is a great moment; must take photo.’ It’s still a great stretch, though. I felt physically that I had done something. There are lots of smiles and lots of snuggles.”
Leighann Wood brought her daughter Emilee Strickland as a gift for her birthday.
Midway through the class, one goat was napping on Wood’s mat behind her, and several other goats had come over and gathered around her.
“I’m the goat whisperer,” she said.
After the class, Wood said, “It was amazing. I mostly came for the animals, but I did some yoga too. We have wanted to come for a while. But I was working the last two times. But my daughter’s birthday is tomorrow, and today was perfect.”
Jennie Casey has been to almost all of the goat yoga classes at the farm.
“I love any yoga that’s outside. The goats are a bonus. Melinda does a great job. The kids yoga is good too.”
Bethune also teaches kids yoga. “Kids” refers to human children, but goat kids are involved as well. She tells a story where each character is a pose. It’s for children three to twelve, and parents and children do it together.
“It’s tiring,” Bethune said. “We’re going to try a toddler class in a couple of weeks.”
Petting some goats before leaving, Shelby Coleman said, “I loved it. It was so cool. I was excited we got a pig, too. It was so awesome the way they just came up to you.”
See Sunni Goat Farm’s Facebook page for future dates of Goat Yoga and Kids Yoga classes or call 919-741-9136 for more information.
Reach Bill Colvard at 336-415-4699.