Goat yoga marries stress relief and animal therapy
When the stresses of everyday life get your goat, Shawn Cannarile has a suggestion.
She recommends that you turn the tables and get her goat. With a total of 10 at Cannarile’s Williamston-area farm, she has plenty of goats to spare. Plus, she’s certain you’ll feel much better afterward.
Cannarile runs Original Goat Yoga-Michigan out of her Hilltop Views Farm, 161 Frost Road in Wheatfield Township. As the only Original Goat Yoga satellite in the state of Michigan, Cannarile’s business is exactly what it sounds like it is: a yoga class intermingled with animal-assisted therapy in the form of goats.
Why? Because it makes perfect sense, according to Cannarile.
“Goats are social animals, they’re clean animals, they like heights. They don’t like to be dirty. They don’t like to be cold,” she explained. “Unless I missed it, there hasn’t been one person who hasn’t left here smiling.”
She’s not talking about just a handful of yoga enthusiasts. In her first season of Original Goat Yoga-Michigan in 2018, more than 1,200 people took a class. Most of the weekend classes held in the near-century-old barn on Hilltop Views Farm during the first year were sold out. Those people came from across Michigan as well as five different states to attend the classes because, Cannarile noted, they get the point: As the goats walk underneath guests, climb on top of them or simply lay down next to them, the yoga becomes the secondary experience.
“The yoga is the vehicle to the goats,” she said. “Some people get dragged here, but by the time they leave they get it. We have people who come back again and again. We have people come in who are going through a tough time in their lives and they need a distraction. We have people come in with anxiety or depression. Life is hard, and we’re not taking the time to relax and play as adults. This is something that kind of gives them permission to do that.”
Cannarile and her husband acquired their first two goats – Oakley and Petunia – not long after making the transition from suburban life to rural life at Hilltop Views Farm. Cannarile was already taking yoga classes at Williamston’s Our Space Yoga with Cherrie Ferro when the goat yoga concept first started making an appearance in popular culture. Encouraged to combine her two passions, Cannarile contacted Original Goat Yoga founder Lainey Morse about bringing a satellite location of Original Goat Yoga to Michigan.
“At the end of the phone call, I was pretty much in tears,” Cannarile said. “I knew this was something I wanted to do.”
Original Goat Yoga-Michigan launched in April 2018 and, thanks to heaters placed in the barn, ran through New Year’s 2019 in its first season. Cannarile’s tribe of goats that have been adopted or rescued has expanded to the 10 mostly Nigerian Dwarf breed she has now.
“I did not expect this to be a business like it has become, but I’m so happy it has become what it is,” she said. “This to me – I call it my safe space, my happy space. It’s where I come to let go.
“Sometimes goat yoga is really calm. Sometimes it is really chaotic,” she added with a laugh. “But because of these goats, I have a hard time getting to work on time. And because of them, I can’t wait to get home.”
Original Goat Yoga-Michigan typically holds one or two 30-person classes on the weekends, but private events can be scheduled. Classes start at $35 per person. Discounted rates are available for students, seniors and members in the service industries. For more information, call (888) 992-GOAT or visit lansingmichigam.goatyoga.net