For those who practice yoga and are looking to change things up a bit, there’s nothing like adding a bit of maa-jestic goats to the mix.

Yoga mat, check.

Water bottle, check.

Hoofed muses, what?

At Franny’s Original Farm in Leicester, spotted and speckled fur babies bop and weave in between yoga mats adding levity and encouragement to both newbie and experienced students.

“It’s something a little different with a little fun mixed in, and who doesn’t like a goat,” said instructor Carrie Myers, who leads the morning yoga session.

Myers, who operated Inspiration Yoga in Biltmore Park for five years before COVID forced her to shut her doors, came to the Farm via her friendship with owner Frances Tacy.

“We just weren’t recovering fast enough after COVID hit last year,” said Myers, who has a master’s degree in social work and writes a fair amount of poetry in her spare time.

When she heard Franny was planning to bring back goat yoga, she reached out.

“I keep my class at an easier level,” said Myers. “There are not a lot of fast movements. The goats are great because they help get yoga into the world and let people know that it’s not as serious as they might think. My philosophy is do what you can. If you show up on your mat and if you’re in tune with your body then you’re doing yoga.”

Goat yoga is offered at Franny’s Farm on Sundays, at 10:30 a.m. and noon. Upcoming classes are scheduled on Sept. 26 and Oct. 3 and 24. Classes take place rain or shine as they are conducted inside the barn; mats are provided, but students are encouraged to bring water bottles and a towel.

As morning fog gave way to a clear blue sky, a slender man in jeans introduced a chubby brown goat into the studio; before long, two other spotted kids strutted in and quickly zeroed in on a pile of hay gathered at the far end of the room. When students entered the barn they selected their mats and were greeted with a festive maa and a great photo opportunity.

Bring On the Goats

“Our kids love it here. Well, they love goats and they’re starting to do yoga,” said Dana Rider pointing to his two boys, Cloud, 5, and Beau, 3, as they petted one of the goats.

Rider, who, along with his wife, Elise, operate Othersidehemp.com and turned out for the morning session to check things out.

“When we decided we wanted to grow hemp, we grew under Franny’s license for the first two years,” Dana Rider said. “We live out in Sandy Mush, not too far away. She really brought us to the dance. Franny’s been like family to us and so coming out today is all about support.”

For friends Amelia Maxham and Olivia Terrell, goat yoga just seemed like a good idea.

The two ladies who live in Asheville made the trek out to the country to get away for the morning. For Maxham, a self-admitted first-timer, the goats made the experience worth it and worth repeating.

“I was audibly giggling the whole time,” Maxham said. “It was fun and gentle, and a perfect Sunday-funday kind of thing to do.”

When asked if the two friends would return and/or recommend the class, they both nodded their heads and said, “Absolutely!”

No Pressure Yoga

The Sept. 12 class maxed out at 20 students. It’s just about the right number of bodies for the barn studio, and it gives the goats enough room to wander.

Much of the class is a straightforward yoga experience with Myers calling out poses, sharing insights and stopping for moments to offer intentions.

Soft, reflective music fills in the contemplative space, along with the scent of drying hemp hanging from the rafters.

“It was a fun, relaxing and comfortable pace,” said Melanie Stanley, who followed her friends Mary Dolce and Teresa Worstlen out to the Farm.

“It was entertaining to see the goats. Usually, with some classes you feel pressured, but here there was no pressure. It was awesome.”

Worstlen, who has taken several yoga classes, said “The goats didn’t interfere. They weren’t annoying. It was a serious class.”

According to lawnlove.com, outdoor yoga continues to grow in popularity across the Southeast. In fact, North Carolina had two cities in the Top 5 on the 2021 list — Greensboro, No. 1 and Winston-Salem, No. 5.

Aside from lawn love’s recent survey, theyogainstitutegoa.com lists the five reasons people enjoy yoga as stress relief, flexibility and body strength, spiritual benefits, pain relief and concentration and mindfulness. All, seemingly, great things to practice in a world put off kilter post-pandemic.

In the end, one seems certain:

After 60 minutes spent listening to your breath, opening your heart and finding yourself in poses inspired by happy babies and downward-facing dogs, it’s hard to come away feeling anything but, well, happy. Add in a few goats and you’ve multiplied the fun factor by 100.

Quite a way to greet the day.

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