2017-07-20 / Front Page

Goat Yoga Wows at Farm

By Sandy McGee


With a brightly striped towel in one hand and a water bottle in the other, Heather Staples of Longmont, Colo., (right) smiles as she walks up a country lane at Simmons Farm in Middletown. Behind her, goats on leashes lead other participants up a dirt lane lined with tall grass and wildflowers, pausing every now and then for a snack. Staples was visiting family in the area when her sister-in-law suggested they try goat yoga. “I’ve never done it before, but she did,” Staples said. “I’m a little nervous about the hooves on my back, but excited to have goats roam around me while I’m doing my yoga poses.” The mother of two learned there was nothing to be nervous about. Staples, along with her husband, Eric, and two children, Thomas, 8, and Ella, 10, stuck around after yoga for a family photo, posing intentionally with goats on their backs. (Photo by Jen Carter) With a brightly striped towel in one hand and a water bottle in the other, Heather Staples of Longmont, Colo., (right) smiles as she walks up a country lane at Simmons Farm in Middletown. Behind her, goats on leashes lead other participants up a dirt lane lined with tall grass and wildflowers, pausing every now and then for a snack. Staples was visiting family in the area when her sister-in-law suggested they try goat yoga. “I’ve never done it before, but she did,” Staples said. “I’m a little nervous about the hooves on my back, but excited to have goats roam around me while I’m doing my yoga poses.” The mother of two learned there was nothing to be nervous about. Staples, along with her husband, Eric, and two children, Thomas, 8, and Ella, 10, stuck around after yoga for a family photo, posing intentionally with goats on their backs. (Photo by Jen Carter) Even amateur yogis know the yoga pose known as the downward-facing dog. But the downward-facing goat?


The downward-dog pose, but with a goat. 
(Photo by Jen Carter) The downward-dog pose, but with a goat. (Photo by Jen Carter) This unique pose is being practiced by first-timers and veterans alike at goat yoga, a new program at Simmons Organic Farm in Middletown. More than 26 people carrying rubber mats and towels recently visited the 120-acre family farm for goat yoga.

Goat yoga at Simmons Farm started in May after a viral online video was sent to the farm owner, Karla Simmons. “I said, ‘I could do that,’” Simmons said. “I wanted to do more things to share the farm with the community.”

The viral video has led to classes springing up across the country. Since May, goat yoga has brought an average of 25 students per class to the farm.

“It’s a combination of the spiritual, physical, and humor,” said Sharon Tyler of Bristol, who attended her fourth class on Thursday, July 13. “I thought it was a novel idea. It takes away the seriousness of regular yoga.”


Up close and personal with goat yoga. (Photo by Jen Carter) Up close and personal with goat yoga. (Photo by Jen Carter) “[Goat Yoga is] a mindfulness practice that’s in the tradition of all yoga,” said instructor Christine Reed of Bristol, who also teaches at the Bristol Yoga Studio. “That’s the point of yoga, clearing out all the external chatter and commotion in our minds.”

When students pull into the farm from West Main Road, they instantly see goats at the fence and a picturesque field. The goats mingle with students at the start, the animals butting their heads and horns against legs for attention.

Some of the students are given a goat, either on a leash or to hold in their arms, as they walk up a country lane. On either side of the lane are wildflowers, tall grasses and farm animals, including a pony and piglets.


Writer's note: With hands pushed forward, in table pose, I stare down at my bright blue rubber mat. I can see a large white object start to move near my ankles. Before I know it, the furry creature comes closer into view. Without regard for property or personal space, he walks onto the mat and lies down underneath me, chewing the bright green grass just north of my mat. I lift a hand to pet his soft white hair. The instructor asks the class to move into child pose. With no room left on my mat, I surrender the space to its new temporary owner, petting its hair as it licks my water bottle and then climbs onto my back. Writer's note: With hands pushed forward, in table pose, I stare down at my bright blue rubber mat. I can see a large white object start to move near my ankles. Before I know it, the furry creature comes closer into view. Without regard for property or personal space, he walks onto the mat and lies down underneath me, chewing the bright green grass just north of my mat. I lift a hand to pet his soft white hair. The instructor asks the class to move into child pose. With no room left on my mat, I surrender the space to its new temporary owner, petting its hair as it licks my water bottle and then climbs onto my back. Students often pause to photograph the scenery, which includes cattle grazing on hay in the background.

In the grass field, encircled by a wire fence, the goats are let off their leashes to roam freely among the newly placed yoga mats and water bottles. Ten goats, which range in size and color, graze on grass and curiously sniff the students.

“They nibble on people’s hair,” Simmons said. “They try to drink out of people’s water bottles.”

Many participants are locals, but some hail from as far away as California and even Spain. Last week, several participants brought family from out of town.

“I thought it’d be a lot of fun,” said Cathy Van Hof of Portsmouth, who attended with her daughter, from California.

“I’m the local tour guide,” said Richard Staples of Barrington, who brought his visiting in-laws.

Despite the heat and humidity, many participants smiled and laughed as goats wandered around their yoga mats, sometimes slipping under guests practicing “downward-facing dog” or “goat.”

The unpredictable farm animals climbed on the backs of the nervous looking participants. After the yoga practice, individual students were given time to pose for a photo with a goat on their back.

“It was so much fun, giggling with my friends as the goat visited my friend Jodi’s mat,” said Lisa Olaynack of Middletown. “I loved this new experience.”

Olaynack attended goat yoga with Jodi Meunier of Washington D.C. and Nicole Brunelle of New York, both formerly of Portsmouth.

Goat yoga will continue through October. Adult classes are offered on Tuesdays from 6 to 7:30 p.m.; Thursdays, 10 to 11:30 a.m.; and Fridays, 6 to 7:30 p.m. Each class costs $20 per person.

A children’s yoga class is held every other Saturday (with the next scheduled on July 22) from 4 to 5 p.m. at a cost of $25, which covers both adult and child. Additional children are $13 each. Students can pay cash at the door or register online in advance at simmonsorganicfarmri.com.

Simmons Farm also offers a Pet and Play event on Sundays (through October) from 2 to 6 p.m. For $5, children and adults receive an ice cream cone filled with grain and are encouraged to feed, pet, or even hug animals, including goats; sheep; a calf named “Malcolm;” a Shetland pony, “Strawberry Shortcake”; and a pot belly pig named “Gus.” The event is free for children under 2-years-old.

Recently, Simmons Farm was awarded a special use permit, which will allow them to hold weddings and dinners “in the field.” The dinners are expected to start later this summer, Simmons said.

For more information about Simmons Farm or goat yoga, visit the farm’s website at simmonsorganicfarmri.com.

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