Meditation and farming merge at Alberta farm

Goat yoga proponents say the animals, by their nature, help to ground and slow down the people participants

Years ago, Dawn Kay became concerned about losing her milking goat herd.

The Water Valley, Alta., dairy farmer couldn’t make goat cheese at the time and had to find another source for an income.

While cruising the internet she discovered an alternative, a collaboration where East meets West, and a practice that has recently gone virile across the globe — goat yoga.

“The main reason we invested in goats in 1990 was to make artisan cheese, which is really appreciated by people who can’t eat regular processed cheese,” said Kay.

“While I was taking a hiatus from making cheese for health reasons, I discovered a woman in Oregon who was doing goat yoga. I found it was therapeutic for the people who do goat yoga and for me it was an income stream to help pay for the goats until I could make cheese again.”

Dawn Kay, and her husband, Bruce Kay, started hosting goat yoga classes on their Early Dawn Goat Dairy farm two years ago and it has been growing in popularity ever since. They hold one session a week over four months.

“Once the kids get over four months old, they don’t want anything to do with us,” Dawn Kay said.

The goats tolerate the dozen people occupying one corner section in their pen and within several minutes a couple of nannies start mingling among the humans, sniffing and licking and affectionately rubbing their heads against the yoga participants. The babies soon follow their moms.

The goats offer a nice distraction from the yoga poses, and a few yoginis stop their exercises to pet and caress the females, while others scramble for their cameras to take pictures.

“Goat yoga is more of a meditation,” yoga instructor Lisette McCracken said. “It is not really about the movement. It is about being still and allowing the animals to approach us. It is more of a Buddhist philosophy, which is the movement of the soul that is gentle and nurturing. When people are invited into a pen to do yoga, we are not going into their space and threatening them, which allows the goats to approach us. It is a peace treaty, sort of.”

Many yoga students travelled 80 kilometres from Calgary to experience this interaction with the animals, and three students made the three-hour trip from Lethbridge.

“I have never done yoga before,” Sarah Barry, a teenager from Calgary, said with a broad grin. “But I would definitely do goat yoga again.”

Goat yoga may be a passing fad, although observing all the smiles on the faces after class, there is more to it. The goats, by their nature, help to ground and slow down the people participants, who may be caught in a hurry-up world.

By the time the nannies have weaned their babies, sometime in August, Dawn Kay will resume making goat cheese.

The couple is building a commercial kitchen on the farm, which is expected to be completed this fall. Dawn Kay plans to conduct cooking classes in the building, and continue making a variety of cheeses from the goat’s milk, as well as numerous products such as goat cheese fudge, hand lotions and soap, and cajeta, a Mexican caramel sauce.

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