MONROE CITY, Mo — About 30 people and 18 goats gathered in front of Sweet Water Distillery last Sunday for an afternoon of yoga. As the instructor guided the group through various poses, the goats mingled with the crowd and hopped on people’s backs.
“The goats will climb on you. Is everyone okay with that?” Susan Nowell, owner of Show Me Your GOGA of Hannibal, called into the crowd. Everyone in the group nodded in approval, and for most of them the goats are why they came.
It’s called goat yoga, and it’s exactly what it sounds like — people doing yoga with goats. It’s an activity that has been sweeping the nation.
Heather Utterback, owner of Sweetwater Distillery, said that the event is nothing like she has ever done before. “I’ve never done yoga or had a goat climb on me, but there’s a first time for everything,” she said. “We just wanted to try something different to draw people in.”
John and Marcella Starck, came from Glen Carbon, Illinois, and spent the weekend in Hannibal just to do goat yoga. They discovered Sweetwater Distillery while driving back and forth to Nebraska to see their son in college, and saw the event on Facebook.
“Our son did goat yoga with his freshman class as sort of an introduction to college,” said John. “And we thought, we are going to do that too.”
The event at Sweetwater Distillery was one of the biggest for Show Me Your GOGA. Nowell started her business after she received a picture from her sister who was doing goat yoga on a rooftop in Austin. Nowell had recently acquired goats through her son’s 4-H project, and her sister’s picture sparked an idea.
“One of my coworkers is a yoga instructor and I told her ‘I have goats and you do yoga — we can totally do this!’” Nowell said. “She told me that it would be awesome but I don’t think she knew that I would really do it.”
Nowell now has several yoga instructors who work with her as she travels the region with her goats to various venues. She has been to John Wood Community College in Quincy, The Meadow Campground in New London, and will host upcoming events at Hannibal LaGrange University and Tarripen Farms in Quincy for a Quincy High School Fundraiser — just to name a few.
She also has events at her Hannibal farm through all seasons except winter. Popular events at the farm are birthday parties, bachelorette parties, and hayrides where guests can play with the goats, rabbits, and chickens. They can also ride horses and ponies.
Although the experience is different and fun, there are also medical benefits to goat yoga, as animal therapy is known to reduce stress and anxiety.
“Time with a goat can be stress reducing just like any other kind of animal therapy,” said Nowell.
Leading the group at Sweetwater Distillery was Heather Sommers, who has been a yoga instructor for four years and just started with Show Me Your GOGA about four months ago. She said people who come to goat yoga get a lot out of the experience.
“It’s relaxed but with a little more joy,” she said. “People are just laughing and obviously having such a good time.”
For more information on goat yoga, follow Show Me Your GOGA on Facebook.