When Lainey Morse originated the idea of combining goats and yoga, she had no idea her small Oregon farm would be the topic of worldwide sensation.
And yet, after her first class, people from all over the country signed up to practice their stretches on yoga mats in a barn while a dozen goats roamed around, sometimes crawling on their backs. It made for great Instagram photos, and even better therapy.
But all that glitters is not goat.
As successful as Original Goat Yoga became — including licensed locations all around the U.S. — Morse is not legally allowed to host goat yoga events on her own farm due to outdated zoning laws in Oregon. She and her boyfriend, Sean Scorvo, are actively working on some solutions to the zoning issues, but until then Morse continues to maintain and promote her unique idea that goat yoga is good for the mind and body.
The zoning laws that goat yoga is up against date back to the early 1970s. The laws were put in place to prevent urbanization of farmland, Scorvo says. They designated certain types of land for exclusive farming or conservation.
Because of how deeply engrained the zoning laws are, Scovo says that they are difficult to change, and not many organizations, aside from Original Goat Yoga, want to change it.
“I don’t think anyone wants to open this Pandora’s box,” Scovo says. “For us, we are working on the legal aspect.”
Scorvo and Morse found that equine therapy had been granted an exception to the exclusive farming land law. They are working on getting the same exemption for goat yoga, since it is a similar type of therapy.
The other Oregon Original Goat Yoga farm is located in Oregon City. This location is legally allowed to hold yoga events because it has a horse barn.
“They are not slaughtering or breeding their horses,” Morse says. “I’m doing the same thing basically.”
Morse’s other option is to come up with and produce a crop that would make more money than Original Goat Yoga, but with the farm size and the success of goat yoga, she says it isn’t very likely that would work.
Morse started Original Goat Yoga in 2016, when she acquired two goats that “took over my life.”
“Once I got the goats, I couldn’t care less about anything else,” she says.
She started a casual “goat happy hour” on her farm, where people who were feeling stressed could visit with the goats for a while. Then, one day, someone wanted to have a kid’s birthday party at her farm. One of the moms at the party, a yoga instructor, told Morse she wanted to do a yoga class out there.
“I said the goats are probably going to be all over the humans. When I’m out there they are all over me,” Morse says. “So I said, ‘Let’s do it.’”
The first class was sold out. Morse had to take later classes off Facebook because hundreds of people were willing to drive from all over to the farm. Suddenly, she was doing 30 media interviews a day while still working her full-time job at a remodeling company in Corvallis.
Eventually, she quit the job and committed full time to goat yoga.
As yoga is known for being good for the body and mind, goat yoga has all those qualities — and more.
Goats are among the first domesticated animals, with thousands of years interacting with humans. Morse says goats are good therapy animals because of their calmness.
“They have a lot of characteristics humans have a hard time obtaining, which is calming,” she says. “They live in the present moment, but it’s very oddly relaxing, they almost go into this meditative state.” She says their energy can, in turn, make a human calm.
Scorvo adds that goats can sense your emotions. If you come across as rigid, they might become wary around you.
Morse says they don’t train their goats with treats, because it can make them a little aggressive.
“If we were to have a class today,” she says, “the goats would just sit down on your mat and want love.”
Although she couldn’t hold a yoga session, Morse still wanted me to see the goats during my visit. So, after our interview, we walked in the drizzly winter rain to the goat barn. When we entered, goats of all different sizes and colors swarmed around me, genuinely happy to have a visitor.
Morse told me to imagine sitting on a yoga mat on the hay-covered floor while goats surrounded me in a flurry. I found that just being near all the goats felt — just as Morse said — calming.
One of the bigger goats, Romeo, hopped up on a wooden cable reel to be at eye level with me. His fur is tan with white spots resembling clouds. Romeo sniffs my face as I pet him, and, when I turn away, he paws at me with his hoof, unashamed in asking for more petting.
Goats, I realized, have a lot of love to give. After a few moments in the goat barn surrounded by them, listening to the patter of rain on a tin roof, I felt my rigid stress lose its edge.
The goats seemed to tell me that I, too, could live in the moment with them. And, as Morse told me, “They want love. They just want to be around you.”