(Posted June 9, 2021)
By Kristy Zurbrick, Madison Editor
“On the way there, I thought, ‘Why are we doing this?’”
Kristine Cromwell, a Marysville resident, wasn’t sure what to expect when she signed up for goat yoga at Pastime Park in Plain City. The same went for her daughter, sister-in-law, and cousin who accompanied her. They were among 20 women who took part in the June 3 event hosted by Plain City’s parks and recreation department.
Originally planned as an outdoor activity, the session was moved into the park’s youth building due to wet weather. Inside, the yogis were introduced to five baby goats from Harrison Farm out of southeast Franklin County. For the next hour, as instructor Dana Bernstein of Bern Yoga led the yogis through warrior, downward facing dog, and other poses, Empress, Elvis Juice, Krispy Kreme, Ferris Buehler and Cameron worked the room. In some cases, that meant chilling on a participant’s mat or nibbling on a fanny pack.
When it came to Cameron, an all-white goat with a green ear tag and a stoic expression, that meant staring at Kendall Cromwell, 17, from a foot away for nearly the entire class. Kendall was cracking up, and so was her mom.
“I felt like I was laughing at my daughter more than I was doing yoga, but the next day I was sore, so I did get in a good session,” Cromwell said.
Afterward, she tried to describe the experience to her 78-year-old mother who had plenty of questions.
“She asked me if the goats were doing yoga. I said, ‘No, they were just hanging out.’ She said, ‘I don’t get it.’”
When asked the big “Why?” question, Katherine Harrison, owner of Harrison Farm, has answers.
“Being surrounded by animals allows you to connect with the circle of life and your part in it as a human. It’s a way to reconnect with the earth and your place in nature and the world,” she said.
Plus, goats + yoga = comic relief.
“In life, there are many distractions but few are as cute as baby goats,” Harrison said. Yoga is about being in the moment, and it’s hard not to be very aware and present when you are sharing space with curious, hoofed, furry creatures.
Whitney Reed, a Plain City resident, attended the goat yoga class for a couple of reasons. One, on Memorial Day, she made her best friend do the Murph Challenge, a tough workout that memorializes military personnel who have died in the line of duty. It involves doing 100 pullups, 200 pushups and 300 squats between two one-mile runs. As payback, Reed’s best friend signed her up for goat yoga.
“I’ve done plenty of yoga but never goat yoga. I was expecting a goat on my back and goat poop everywhere,” Reed said.
Neither of those visions materialized. Instead, Elvis Juice, a brown-headed guy with a full tummy following the bottle feeding at the start of the session, took up residence at the back of Reed’s mat and dozed off.
“I wasn’t sure about doing some of the poses because I totally thought he was going to get a mouthful of my hair,” she said, laughing. She left the class with her full head of hair and positive vibes.
“It was a nice hour of sweating, laughing, and having a good, relaxing time,” she said.
Which speaks to Reed’s second reason for attending the class. She invited her sister, who is going through a challenging time, to participate, too.
“A few weeks ago, her 2-year-old son was diagnosed with a brain tumor. It was good to see her get out, laugh, and relax a little bit,” Reed said.
For Harrison and Bernstein, these stories are that much more motivation to keep doing what they’re doing. The two connected several years ago when Harrison served as Bernstein’s wedding coordinator. Bernstein was completing her first round of yoga instructor training. Harrison was operating her farm and doing event coordination gigs.
The two became friends and business partners. Harrison’s goal with her farm is to provide the public with a holistic experience that promotes wellness, a connection with nature, and an appreciation for farming. She does that through on-the-farm dinners, private events, and tours. Another way is goat yoga with Bernstein as the farm’s in-house guide.
“It wasn’t my plan to become a goat yoga instructor. The concept didn’t even exist when I was going through my first teacher training,” said Bernstein, who also teaches traditional yoga classes. “Then Katherine invited me to teach at her farm, and we saw an article on goat yoga. It all happened organically for us. Even though it was a trend nationally, we were already creating a yoga community at the farm. This just fit well.”
This is the duo’s sixth season of offering goat yoga. While most of the classes take place on the farm, Harrison and Bernstein are open to the idea of doing more off-site sessions like the one in Plain City.
“Off the farm or not, yoga is a practice of presence. Poses, breathing, goats–if all of that helps you to be present, we are doing yoga regardless,” Bernstein said.
Linda Granger, Plain City’s parks and recreation director, said she plans to poll the public to see if they’d like a repeat of goat yoga on the village’s recreation calendar.
“If there is enough demand, we will probably do another goat yoga session later in the season,” she said.