Goat yoga comes to the Juniata Valley | News, Sports, Jobs

Jonathan Goshorn, left, with Ashley Raspen and a photo-bombing goat at a Goat Yoga event. Juniata Valley Winery will host a session of the exercise craze today.

MIFFLIN — Jennifer Hepner remembers the first time she told friends she was on her way to go yoga.

“Most people had at least heard of it but didn’t know you could go to it around here,” the Lewistown resident recalls. “Some people did find it strange.”

Hepner and a few friends attended the Best Goat Yoga event at the Juniata Valley Winery, Mifflin, last summer. “People were excited for me and wanted to go, too, sometime,” Hepner adds.

They have their chance Saturday as the winery will hold a widely popular goat yoga session, starting at 11 am

Goat yoga is what it sounds like — combining yoga practice while goats roam around the participants, called yogis. It might sound peculiar but trust these folks when they say that it’s tons of fun.

When Jonathan Goshorn of Mifflintown talks about goat yoga some might believe he was more likely to exercise with seven-time Super Bowl winning quarterback Tom Brady than with a bunch of farm animals.

“Ha ha, no,” Goshorn said. “Most of my friends wanted to come, and I got a few to go as well.”

Goshorn went twice last year to goat yoga and once this year.

“It’s a great time,” he added. “Lots of laughs. Very interactive as well as challenging. It’s also great for everyone because you can go at your own pace.”

Dawn Berrier of Vira might have been among the doubters. She and her daughter, Faith, also attended goat yoga last summer.

“Most people had never heard of it,” Berrier said. “Many thought it sounded like fun, and others thought it was crazy.”

Berrier did some research prior to the event, so she was prepared.

“I Googled it myself, so I knew what to expect,” she explained. “I checked out the website of the company that was bringing the goals, so I had a good idea what to expect.”

Fitness craze spreading

Goat yoga is a fitness craze spreading like wildfire across the nation. Originating on a farm in Oregon, goat yoga has become a popular trend where people yearn to spend time with nature and with animals.

“Laughter is therapeutic, right?” Berrier jokes.

Plus, as Berrier says, it’s just therapeutic to spend some time on a beautiful farm, in the open air, with amazing little creatures, away from the stresses of everyday life.

Goat yoga has grown in popularity.

“Last year was our first season hosting these (events); they have been a hit,” said Molly Burkholder, director of weddings and events at the winery. “We sell out every time and usually have 70 to 80 participants. We typically host them two or three times. It is one of our favorite events.”

At the winery, a yoga instructor leads the 75-minute session, as usual, except in an enclosed outdoor area that is shared with a number of adorable, playful goats — all of which have free reign to participate in the session as they see fit!

“If you want to focus on petting all the goats running around you can,” Goshorn said. “If you want to really get into doing yoga you can. I’m an animal lover, so it’s perfect.

Sometimes the friendly goats just roam around as the instructor takes the group through a yoga flow. Sometimes, they come up to the yogi — the yoga term for those exercising in the session — and sniff them and start to nuzzle them. Sometimes the goats jump up on them. They particularly like to stand on people or go under them during yoga poses.

Goats might walk up to yogis and stare into their souls, burp in their ears, or give them a goat hug which is a special thing. Often, they will just lay down on the mat and cuddle up next to the yogi.

Yogis, like Hepner, also like to hold the little critters at times, or reach out and touch them or tickle them as they stroll by.

“Well at goat yoga, no one cares how much actual yoga you do, and once the goats are released, there is a lot of fun and laughter,” Hepner said. “Also, it doesn’t matter how in shape you are, it’s just fun. The goats are adorable.”

Goat attendants hand feed the goats to keep them from chewing on your shoelaces, bag handles, mats or even the occasional ponytail. The attendants also clean up anything that the little cuties might drop on a mat.

“Oh yes, several,” Hepner added. “One tried to eat my hair. One tried to eat my friend’s earring. I had one stand on my back.”

Goat yoga is not a traditional yoga experience, but it is certainly one that puts Hepner and her friends in a good mood. It’s hard not to giggle when a cute goat decides that it wants your attention. It’s a distraction, but it’s a happy distraction that cannot be ignored. And a goat yoga class is one that participants will not soon forget.

Goat yoga origins

The winery works with Buttinhead Farms, located in Hunlock Creek, Luzerne County, to supply the animals for goat yoga.

Buttinhead Farms owner Ashley Raspen, who also works as a fitness professional, saw her goat farm turn into a yoga studio when members of her gym became fascinated with her animals.

Juggling farming and fitness became a match made in heaven. In May 2019, she decided to hold goat yoga sessions at her farm. From there, business has been booming.

“I was not planning on where we would end up in the first year of our business,” Raspen explains. “The response was more amazing than I could have ever imagined.

“I travel all over Pennsylvania doing events partnering with small businesses to help each other bring in revenue and introducing their business to people.”

She brought goat yoga to Mifflin County last spring, working with Brookmere Winery on an event.

The benefits of goat yoga start with the reasons for yoga itself. This type of exercises helps enthusiasts like Berrier to be her best self, to be okay with just being, and to be free from negativity that surrounds her in her day-to-day lives.

“I felt great and had a fun story to tell,” Berrier said.

With goat yoga, experts agree there is a soothing harmony of mind, body, nature and animals, which is also seasoned with unexpected outbursts of playful serendipity. Goat yoga is for everyone, young and old. It is also the perfect yoga class for beginners. There is no experience required.

Raspen says it might not be the most challenging — or the most relaxing — yoga class you’ll ever take, but it will be the most fun ever. Goats add an element of playfulness to what is otherwise known for strict meditation. After a goat yoga session, yogis leave filled with joy and happiness, and she agrees they will also probably have a happy story to tell.

“The only expectation is that you leave happier than you came, and we take away from everyday stresses in your life during the time you’re with us,” Raspen said.

There might also be some physical benefits–although they might just be from all the laughing. Recent studies show significantly better moods and happiness as immediate side effects, as well as even decreased blood pressure.

Goat yogis leave feeling relaxed and rejuvenated, while also uplifted and happy because of their new animal friends. Many stay afterwards just to hold and spend more time with the cuddly little creatures.

“I don’t know if that’s how I’d put it,” Hepner said. “I’d say I left having had an exceptionally fun time with my friends. I guess that is rejuvenating.”

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