Michelle Tritten, yoga instructor for “Hello Critter,” told her participants to take a deep breath in and a long exhale out while saying, “bahhh.”
While humans practiced their best downward dogs, goats Billy, Fanny Farm Girl, Gigi and Lil’ bit embraced their own form of therapy—hopscotching across the backs of the participants of an early afternoon installment of goat yoga, a recent offering at South Coast Botanic Garden.
The Palos Verdes Peninsula class, held Saturday, Feb. 23, reached its 40-person maximum within a week as animal lovers from across Los Angeles County looked for any reason to hang out with the goats.
Goat yoga has been around since 2016 when Michigan-woman Lainey Morse felt the healing power of goats firsthand after struggling through a divorce. She started something called, "goat happy hour," which then evolved into goat yoga.
Morse reportedly made $160,000 in her first year of hosting the classes. The trend has only grown since as it’s now made its way to the Peninsula—where classes continue to sell out.
“We’re really not going to do the yoga, that’s why we’re in the back,” said Denise Sutter of Redondo Beach. “We’re just gonna lay with the goats. I’m obsessed with them. I love how saucy and sassy they are.”
Seemingly without a care in the world, the goats hopped, skipped and jumped around the netted-in area under a wooden awning at the garden. They knocked over water bottles and lay down for naps on people’s backs.
It’s a way for the moderate yoga fan to get outside in the fresh air without stressing about how well they’re able to hold a pose, said Eddie Arteaga of downtown Los Angeles.
“It’s a little bit more relaxing than a regular class,” he said as he’s taken a handful of goat yoga classes. “They love the contact. They get super close and hop on you.”
Bringing a new generation to SCBG
It’s actually more about the goats, less about the yoga.
“It had little to do with yoga; I’m not a fan of yoga,” said Thania Avelar, education coordinator for South Coast Botanic Garden. “I looked up what activities you can do with goats (because) instead of being the crazy cat lady I want to be the crazy goat lady.”
The idea spread fast through Instagram and even television as one of the goats prancing around Saturday was on an episode of "The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills" during a different goat yoga class.
“What I’m hearing is it’s all about the “‘grams,” said Kelly Krusee, Director of Education for South Coast Botanic Garden. “A lot of people in their 20’s were walking by (the most recent class) and saying, ‘I am going to come back.’”
It’s a way to draw in a new population of people who don’t regularly stop by the garden.
“We have been tasked with education but also doing fun new interesting things to attract with people who've never been here before,” she said. “This is attracting the Instagram population and those who are very interested in that. It’s like, ‘get your phone and take a picture of a goat on your back.’”
But it’s also about getting urban folks more in tune with animals they might only see in movies and on television.
Avelar, who grew up horseback riding, said sometimes people have an aversion to farm animals.
“They’re a really undermined sort of animal,” she said. “(But) they’re very cute especially when they’re little, they’re very loving. They don't fight you, they’re not aggressive. They remind me so much of a dog. They’re just very tender even though people think they’re not.”
These particular goat "yogis" live in Glendale with the other goats in their family—some are even rescues from the most recent California wildfires.
“They are members of the family and they have a really good life,” said Krusee.
Their happiness is contagious as giggles and gasps filled South Coast Botanic Garden as they added a playful vibeSaturday.
“Your mind is so at peace with everything. You’re not even focused on anything, you‘re not thinking,” said Avelar. “When I left I just felt joy and excitement.”
There’s an age restriction to the class set at 12 so the kids don’t outweigh the (other) kids.