NEWTOWN TOWNSHIP >> It’s one of those sights you just don’t see every day at Veterans Park.
But there it was, a goat standing on top of a girl arched over in a yoga bridge position.
The Goat Yoga craze, which is yoga practiced in and around live goats, has found its way to Newtown Township. And it’s attracting both young and old to the mid-morning Saturday sessions.
Gathered inside a makeshift pen set up on the grass, 20 kids and adults ran through a series of yoga poses Saturday morning as a herd of 10 Pygmy and Nigerian goats roamed freely around their mats, which were stationed six feet apart for social distancing.
“This is your Goat Yoga class and you get to decide the ratio of goats to yoga,” instructor Eileen Bowden instructs the class. “Interject the yoga where you see fit. You don’t have to keep up with me. It’s very beginner-friendly so everyone can participate."
As the goats fed on piles of hay placed strategically around the yoga mats, students took selfies and reached out to pet the energetic critters.
“It’s a little known fact that goats have a limited consciousness of about 10 feet," says Bowden. "They’re always present in the moment and we ask you to bring that into your practice and find your inner goat,” she tells the class, encouraging them to settle their minds and to forget about the stress and worry of life for a while. “Focus on being present in the moment, finding your inner peace, letting everything outside of the pen go and enjoying the time together this morning with the goats.”
Goat Yoga has become one of the most popular recreational activities this summer in the township and it’s easy to see why from all the giggling and laughing going on.
“This is not your typical yoga class,” said Bowden, a former Newtown Elementary School kindergarten teacher who gave up life in suburbia to operate a farm in rural Bucks County with her husband Ed, a native of Lower Makefield.
The two run Smith's Corner Farm in Pipersville where they raise ducks, chickens, turkeys, roosters, rabbits and of course goats which help to regenerate the farm by eating all the invasive species.
The couple started Namaaaste Goat Yoga a little more than a ago to put their miniature goats to work by tapping into the Goat Yoga craze sweeping the nation and as a way of spreading happiness.
“All our animals earn their keep, if you will,” says Eileen. “The ducks and chickens give us eggs. The goats help us maintain and regenerate land by eating the invasive species. So we started yoga for our miniature breeds.”
Goat Yoga is simply another form of animal assisted therapy, explains Bowden. “It’s a happiness inducer.”
With plenty of studies showing that human interaction with animals helps lower blood pressure and stress, Goats and Yoga are a natural pairing, said Bowden.
“The animals bring a different energy into the space. It’s obviously a feel good. Everybody leaves with a smile. There’s a lot of giggling and a lot of laughing. It’s not your typical yoga class,” she says. “But I think a lot of people like the uniqueness of the Goat. They are a farm animal, but they are cuddly and you can pick them up.
“Our miniature goat breeds are just the right size (think Beagle-size or smaller) to jump on your back, snuggle in your lap or take a nap on your mat,” adds Bowden. “Everyone just enjoys loving on them. And anything that brings a smile to the face is worth it.”
The best thing about Goat Yoga is that it brings happiness, said Bowden.
“I have never seen anyone leave without having enjoyed themselves, giggling and laughing. It’s like we’re farming happiness,” says Bowden.
Of course anytime you pair animals with people something is bound to happen that spawns a good bit of laughter.
Bowden said at one of the classes a goat decided to try out a stainless steel straw. “Sometimes they play king and queen of the hill and knock each other off of someone’s back. We had a few boys we had to retire because they were using their hooves to undo girls’ ponytails,” she laughs.
And occasionally they’ll release some gas with a large, embarrassing noise, catching many yogis by surprise.
This is the second summer that Bowden has brought Goat Yoga to Newtown Township’s summer recreation program. And she plans to be back again next summer.
If you haven’t tried Goat Yoga, there are still openings available on Saturdays, Sept. 5 and 19 and again on Oct. 3 from 9 to 9:45 a.m. at Veterans Park. To register and more information, visit www.newtownfun.com