Just ‘kidding’ around: Goat yoga offers laughter in the pasture
By Chelsea Gengenbach, Communications Specialist
Goat yoga. If these words are leaving you a bit perplexed, you’re in good company. I had the chance to observe the Great Plains Goat Yoga Gathering in rural Buffalo County, and the echoes of laughter in the pasture have me convinced that goat yoga is an excellent way to “exercise your smile.”
When I first heard of goat yoga led by Eustis resident and owner of the Gal and Goat, Tracey Keifer, I had to do a double-take. Goats? Yoga? How in the world could this be relaxing? Especially if, Heaven forbid, the goat decides to relieve itself while standing on you. I had so many questions. So, like any good investigator, I visited a session to see for myself.
It’s 9:00 a.m. on a warm and still Saturday morning in Buffalo County. Cars line a road leading into a pasture. At the end of it, a gated area flaunts a freshly mown yard dotted with colorful yoga mats. Individuals sporting yoga pants and tops wait on their mats, keeping a watchful eye in the corner. There, several Pygmy goats and two lambs graze. It’s goat time!
Tracey leads the group into the warm up session. Her husband, Johnny, begins coaxing the goats over with paper cups filled with tasty goat snacks. He dumps the food onto the ground between the mats, and the goats casually walk over to feed. One goat pauses during its breakfast to notice a woman in the Cobra Pose and moves to sniff her. Her face, seemingly intent on following her instructor, breaks into a warm grin as she reaches up to scratch the goat’s neck. It’s all downhill from here. She ignores her instructor and chooses to play with the goat instead.
“That’s alright!” Tracey says. “This is your practice; you choose how to make this session work for you.”
The former Lincoln resident started Gal and Goat in 2016 where she made and sold her own line of goat milk products. It wasn’t until 2017 when she heard of goat yoga. After Tracey and her daughter attended a session, she was sold on the idea. Her husband, Johnny, had been working for Valley Vending Service Canteen in Lincoln when he was offered an opportunity to move to Cozad and work for the same company. They decided to take the leap, but under one condition.
“I told him [Johnny] that if I was going to move to a small town, then I wanted the whole experience. I wanted some goats,” Tracey laughed.
The couple moved to the Eustis area in November 2017 where they currently reside with four goats. They met 1733 Produce and Pumpkin Patch owners Hunter Bamford and his family after the couple started to purchase hay from him. The groups shared their appreciation of goats and Bamford offered to host yoga sessions on his property and run his herd of goats with hers.
“Life is all too serious and we often miss so much due to our hectic lives,” Tracey said. “Goats are nothing but in the moment. When they nibble on something, it’s the best nibble they ever tasted. My hope is that my goat yoga practice will give us all truly something that we need…to live, laugh and be in the moment.”
Indeed, the group was “in the moment.”
A mother and daughter attempt to create a W shape with their feet touching while a goat uses its head to “help” lift their legs. The duo laughs and pats the goat’s head. Three teenage girls create a human pyramid, and Johnny encourages a goat to leap to the top. It tries several times before successfully balancing on the top tier. The girls shriek with delight and cheers erupt from the group. Then, Tracey instructs everyone to get on all fours and line up shoulder to shoulder, creating a human bridge. Two goats immediately jump up and eagerly follow Johnny’s treat cup across the bridge. One goat stops to paw the shirt of a woman before moving on.
The session ends with positive thoughts through meditation, where Tracey encourages the group to “let go” of their troubles and negative thoughts. She thanks the group for their attendance and encourages everyone to linger and enjoy refreshments.
Tracey and I settle on the grass to discuss her yoga practice. I ask her what she hopes to gain from hosting this experience. She tells me a story.
“There was a woman here today who said that the meditation at the end had the message that she needed to hear. She explained that she had been through some hard times, and that the goat yoga helped her. I tried not to tear up when she shared some of her story with me. That makes it all worth it. That’s what this is all about. It just goes to show you that everything happens for a reason.”
As I wrapped up my interview, I still had one more burning question: Do the goats ever relieve themselves on the yogis? Tracey and I laugh at the question. I explain that it was a common joke I heard when I told people about attending a goat yoga session.
“No, I haven’t seen that happen. Sure, it’s a possibility, but if it does, at least it’s small and will roll off when you stand up. They are animals, after all.”
To confirm, I did not observe any goat relieving itself on a person during the entire session.
So, if something’s got your goat, try taking it to goat yoga. Chances are you’ll leave with a smile on your face. Visit Tracey’s Facebook page, Gal and Goat, for information on upcoming sessions.