On Saturday mornings, about 20 goats eat their breakfast while surrounded by stretching Salemites.
Salem Goat Yoga, operating out of a west Salem barn since 2019, mixes traditional poses with whimsy. And the result, as co-owner Samatha Hofstad explains, is pure joy.
Hofstad took several goat yoga classes and became determined to bring the experience to Oregon.
“I have another friend who is a yoga instructor who started goat yoga classes in Arizona. After talking with her and experiencing it for myself, I just thought it was so much fun and inspired so much joy that I wanted to do it myself all the time. And that’s why I started the businesses,” she said.
Classes begin with treats provided in bowls placed next to each yogi’s mat. When yogis are settled, the barn doors open, and Nigerian goats stream in to eat the kibble. After this quick introduction, the formal yoga class begins. But the goats remain.
“The goats walk around during class, intermingling with the participants. As you’re doing yoga poses, you can take a break and give some pets to friendly goats,” Hofstad said.
Hay bales, pumpkins, and other goat-friendly treats are placed strategically, so each class participant has the opportunity to see and pat furry friends during class.
“In some classes, the goats are more energetic and a little more sassy. You might see them trotting around and head-butting each other (they do not head butt people),” she said. “But in other classes, they are in a more relaxed mood. There have been times when a goat sort of sits down and makes itself cozy on someone’s mat while they’re doing yoga.”
Hofstad and her partner choose goats that appreciate spending time with humans.
“The ones who really enjoy it and are the friendliest are the ones who do our goat yoga classes,” she said.
Hofstad teaches the class, and her routines focus on stretching and relaxation. While her lessons are appropriate for beginners, experienced yogis might also pick up something new. But pose perfection isn’t the point of these classes.
“I feel that sometimes yoga classes have been, in a stereotypical fashion, really serious. While goat yoga is still a relaxing experience, it’s nice to hear people laughing and not taking themselves too seriously,” she said.
After class, yogis have 45 minutes to mix and mingle with the goats. Cameras typically emerge at this point, and Hofstad and her partner help people get the perfect shot. Some smaller goats are willing to be held for posed photos, and some will leap onto human backs (if invited).
Salem Goat Yoga also offers periodic painting classes. Participants are provided with a canvas, paint, and plenty of goat company. A teacher guides the painting, while the goats compete for attention and treats.
Yoga classes at Salem Goat Yoga are $35 per person, including mat rental and photo opportunities. Private events and group class options are available too. No painting with goats classes are available at press time, but Hofstad hopes to hold more soon. Learn more and sign up online.
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Jean Dion is a freelance writer and marketing professional. She's lived in Salem for about 10 years. When not writing, she dabbles in gardening, photography, and caring for her dogs, cats, and rabbits.