Last year was a rough one for Lainey Morse. Grappling with a recent divorce and the debilitating effects of Sjögren's Syndrome—an autoimmune disorder that causes joint pain, fatigue, and dry eyes and mouth—Morse took to spending her evenings in the fields of her farm in Albany, Oregon, surrounded by her beloved pet goats.
“I couldn’t even walk from my house to the barn; I would have to sit down and rest,” she recalls. “But it’s really hard to be sad and depressed when there are baby goats.”
These days, you can still find Morse sitting in the field with her caprine friends. But you’re likely to find a BBC camera crew or New York Times reporter out there with her. Since late August, media outlets from around the globe have been traveling to this sleepy Willamette Valley town to document the latest craze: goat yoga.
“There are two questions people don’t ask me: ‘How much does it cost?’ and ‘Where are you?’” says Morse. “They don’t even care. They just want to do it.” (We know what you’re thinking, and no, the goats don’t actually do sun salutations—instead, yogis are led through poses while a half-dozen goats wander merrily around, practicing their savasanas and occasionally nibbling on mats.)
Like many groundbreaking ideas, goat yoga was invented almost by chance: Morse was hosting a children’s birthday party on her farm last July when one of the moms, a yoga instructor named Heather Davis, suggested it might be fun to offer classes in the field. Morse agreed, scheduling the first class for August. “We were just testing it,” she explains. “We weren’t even going to charge people.” Morse sent photos of the event to Modern Farmer; the resulting coverage went viral, spawning thousands of social media mentions, hundreds of copycat articles (including, arguably, this one), and shout-outs on late night talk shows.
So far, Portlanders compose the majority of goat yoga participants, but folks from as far away as London, Germany, and Italy have expressed earnest interest in signing up for one of Davis and Morse’s goat yoga class. Classes are currently on hold until spring, but the waiting list has grown to nearly 600 names and counting. The frenzy is still a tad baffling to Morse, who doesn’t even practice yoga herself.
“I’m not a farmer and I’m not a yoga instructor,” she clarifies. “I’m just a crazy goat mom.”
Nevertheless, Morse has enthusiastically embraced her new role as goat yoga mogul. She’s paired up with Portland athletic company Evolve to produce a line of goat yoga leggings, mats, and shirts. She’s also developing media kits and materials to help pair other goat owners around the world with nearby yoga instructors and therapists.
“For the most part, farmers don’t make very much money,” she explains. “This could be another revenue stream for them, and you don’t need to have any skill to do it. They just need a space, a yoga teacher, and some friendly goats.”
Inspired by Morse's success, goat yoga franchises have begun popping up in places from British Columbia to Gilbert, Arizona, with more on the way. A recent goat yoga class in Canada was staged to raise money for a young man with stage 4 cancer. “It's making good things happen to people that aren't having good things happen to them,” says Morse. “I get it! It happened to me.”
Morse recently left her full-time marketing job to focus on goat yoga, and is currently looking for a new, larger farm to host yoga classes, happy hours, vacations, and retreats. A new goat yoga website is posed to launch in the next few weeks, complete with a shop hawking goat-themed tanks, pajamas, and ugly Christmas sweaters. Oh, and there’s one more thing on Morse’s to-do list:
“I’m probably going to need more goats,” she says. “You have to have a good goat-to-person ratio.” After all, without the goats, it’s just yoga in a field of poop.