The kids are alright…and the nannies and billies, too

I n this fast-paced world of immediate answers and non-stop connectivity, there is a real need for us to unplug and unwind, so that we may reconnect with ourselves and with nature. The rise in self-care has surged since the 1980s, a movement that will not be falling away anytime soon, even though there may […]

Goat Yoga blends fun and fitness
in Miami Valley


Walter balances on Mary Agne’s back while Terri Wolf and Melissa Burnsworth look on.

By Sarah Monroe | Photos by Gary McBride

In this fast-paced world of immediate answers and non-stop connectivity, there is a real need for us to unplug and unwind, so that we may reconnect with ourselves and with nature. The rise in self-care has surged since the 1980s, a movement that will not be falling away anytime soon, even though there may be times when our workouts feel more like a prison sentence rather than a celebration of what our bodies can do. We often find ourselves dreading what should be fun, or becoming bored with the same routine and hitting a plateau which will affect our progress and thus our motivation. The words “fun” and “workout” don’t always go together (at least that’s what I tell myself every time a cardio class kicks into high gear), but that is something the newest trend in the workout world is trying to change.

Goat Yoga is the latest craze to sweep the nation, an exercise that has gained popularity so rapidly that in some parts of the country the waiting list for a class is hundreds of names long. It has only been around since 2016 and even though the practice is still a “kid” in the workout industry (ha, see what I did there?), the desire for such a quirky class illustrates the need for a lighthearted exercise routine, one that we will certainly see around for years to come. The founder of the original goat yoga class, Lainey Morse, started her journey into the world of self-care after it was suggested to host yoga classes on her farm called “No Regrets,” located in Oregon. Morse gave it a go, and goat yoga took the internet by storm.

If you are wondering what goat yoga is, it is exactly as it sounds. Participants will follow an instructor through a slow-flow vinyasa class while the goats roam about and join in on the fun. They have been known to cuddle with you, lounge on the mats and sometimes even offer up a back massage while you are in postures such as downward facing dog or child’s pose. The curious and cheerful manner of the goats are a few of the main attractions to using them as a therapeutic tool. They simply have a way of making you smile.

The goat yoga trend has not been lost on Ohio, as classes have sprung up from Cleveland to Cincinnati and everywhere else in between. Simply type “goat yoga” into your preferred search engine and you will be inundated with classes available. Honey Sweetie Acres is one such farm that is about an hour-and-a-half from the Dayton area. The farm specializes in goat milk products such as soaps and lotions, as well as all-natural healing items like oils and probiotics. They started the adventure of goat yoga last year and have a schedule of events planned for the upcoming summer months. They will hold 2-hour classes that include a 30-minute meet and greet with the Nigerian Dwarf Goats that are on the farm before the yoga flow will begin.

If you prefer a location closer to home though, I will tell you about a hidden utopia located in a not so faraway place. Quietly sitting between Catalpa and Philadelphia Drive at 1075 West Siebenthaler Avenue, a small farm named Secret Eden hides. It is an “Urban Retreat offering events to promote mindfulness,” and is located on the Siebenthaler Homestead. The estate is sprawling, with acres of tamed and untamed wilderness shooting out from the back of the house. There are dozens of different tree species and scores of flowers in different colors splashing about the grounds. Romantic wisteria vines twist and turn, trailing up the lattice pergola that faces one of two ponds, and on warm days the sound of bullfrogs serenade you into sunset.

Terri Burton, part owner and co-founder of Secret Eden, had lived nearly all of her adult life with nature, but circumstances landed her in downtown Dayton, residing in the St. Anne’s Hill Historic District for about six years. “I enjoyed it out there, but I always had the thought that I wanted to get back (to nature) because that was just where my heart has always been.” She and her partner, David Smith, assumed that they would have to relocate further into a rural area to be able to enjoy the type of life they wanted, but after months of looking, they were left a little discouraged with not being able to find something that fit just right. Of course, that is until they received a call from their realtor in May of 2016. “She said ‘Terri, you have to see this place,’” Burton says. Even with all of the overgrown brush, the pair could feel the ‘magical energy’ of the land and knew that they had found a home.      

Terri’s lifelong best friend, Dana Staup, and her partner, Tom, were an integral part in Terri and David getting the land cleared away and the goat yoga experience up and running. All four pitched in with back-breaking work to uncover the wonderful 10-acre estate and bring back to life the astounding gardens planted by the Siebenthaler family. “It’s like a fireworks show,” David says, as he describes the changing flowers of the garden throughout their blooming seasons. The Siebenthaler Homestead is the namesake of Siebenthaler’s Nursery, which is well know in the Dayton area and has been in business since 1870. According to records, the home was built in 1960 and was a sight to behold in its days of glory, something that Terri and the gang have worked hard to bring back.

Before they officially settled on goat yoga, the couple knew that they wanted to share the land with the community, but they just didn’t know how. “It’s a magical place,” David says. “As we uncovered different things, the possibilities and the ideas just run through your head.” Then one day, Terri came across a woman from Oregon doing yoga with goats. “What a great idea!” Terri exclaimed. “Goats are just such great animals! To me, they’re very peaceful and being around them is so calming.”

The four talked about the idea over dinner, and with the help of The Entrepreneur Center located on Monument Avenue in Dayton, everything fell into place. Response for the events that Secret Eden has received has been tremendous and a bit overwhelming, but Terri says “I think people are looking for something that is a little more spiritual, a little deeper. And as far as stress relief, it’s just the best.” For them, community is a big part of that connection with a deeper self. They are planning more events with that in mind, such as wine and goats, as well as a bonfire with goats. Secret Eden has also been invited to teach two yoga classes for the upcoming Furry Skurry, an annual 5k and Furry Fest hosted by the Humane Society of Greater Dayton on May 26.

Wonder what to expect on your first goat yoga adventure? I had the chance to attend a class at Secret Eden, on a colder than expected Saturday. David met us at the parking lot located on a grassy field at the tree line of the estate, and then we walked down a small path and were greeted by Terri and Dana. After filling out release forms, we were ushered into the goat pen and were surrounded by the pygmy goats as well as a few chickens. They introduced each goat to us one by one, but they move around so much that you lose track of who is who quickly. That is, except for Walter, who is the star among the group. He has been featured on more than one live segment of a local Dayton television station and definitely loves being in the spotlight.

We all had the opportunity to take pictures and pet the chickens, who also joined us during the yoga practice and are surprisingly soft to the touch. Once everyone was in attendance and had a chance to pet the pygmies, Terri and the gang welcomed the entire group of participants and walked us down a short path leading to a fenced-off field underneath far-reaching evergreens and catalpa trees. We were given two containers of feed to encourage the animals to join us during practice, and then we all settled in. The yoga flow was at a nice even pace and just like any practice that you attend, you work to your own ability, whether that is more or less than what the class is being taught. The event is full of laughter and smiling faces and even though you are close to a busy street, the gentle sounds of nature drown it all out. After the practice, all participants get down on hands and knees and shimmy together shoulder to shoulder and allow Walter to walk from one side to the other and back again so that everybody gets a chance to have a back massage by a goat. Finally you take a short walk around the back half of the grounds with the goats and chickens, admiring the beautiful farm and you finish up where you started.

Things to remember when attending any goat yoga class: assume that the event is being held outdoors unless explicitly stated, so dress for the weather, which includes sunblock. If the weather is questionable, always reach out to see if the class will still take place. Few things are worse than a wasted trip. Check on the company’s website to see if they offer their own mats or if you need to take one of your own. If you do bring one, try to take an older mat because nature is nature, and natural things can happen from the business end of an animal. Bring water, although most if not all companies will offer a bottle of water if needed, and look over their cancellation policy because each place is different.

As always, no matter where you go or what level of practice you are in, don’t get caught up in whether or not you are doing the poses correctly. Enjoy the flow and have fun with yourself and the goats. They are there to make you smile and they do a great job at that.

The dates, times and price of each goat yoga event varies. Find out the information at the following links: www.secreteden.net and honeysweetieacres.com/goat-yoga-honey-sweetie-acres-ohio/

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Sarah Monroe, a native to the Gem City, is currently writing her first novel. Reach DCP writer Sarah Monroe at contactus@daytoncitypaper.com

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