When I first started considering my options for activities for midlife adventures, there were two things that came to mind that seemed truly bonkers. One was extreme ironing, (which God knows how I came across) and involves ironing, but as the name suggests, in extreme places. Think iron boards precariously balanced on tree branches, or casually de-creasing your jeans up a mountain. Whilst the idea did indeed put a smile on my face, at the end of the day, ironing is ironing, and I don't think an adventurous setting would make that fun for me. The other option (the one I previously explained reduced my mum to shocked silence), was something called Goat Yoga.
Maybe you've heard of this before? Maybe you're an expert...if that's possible, but for the uninitiated, let me enlighten you a little. Goat yoga seems to have developed from the original idea of Goat Happy Hour, invented by Lainey Morse of Oregan, who wanted to improve her mental health during a difficult time of her life. The idea quickly caught on, with a visiting yoga instructor suggesting the unlikely pairing of goats with yoga. Read more on how Lainey Morse developed and built up her business here:
Having decided that this strange new fitness phenomenon would be my next adventure, I began researching if such a thing even existed in Scotland...crossing my fingers that it would. Luckily I came across Pygmy Goat Pilates, run by The Pilates Attic and was a bit taken aback by the popularity! Many sessions were already sold out and so I booked my session for a few weeks time, enjoying the confusion and surprise from the few friends and family I let in on my secret. My mind was also busy planning the G.O.A.T. (greatest of all time) social media posts this adventure could allow me to create, having heard of the trend via my kids. Sadly when I told them this idea, the eyerolls and scoffs made it clear this was a no-go...after all, that trend was at least a week old! Couldn't resist using it for this blog post title though; sorry kids.
Worth noting that I have never in my life joined a regular yoga/pilates class, never mind one with goats. Slightly nervous I'd be way out of my depth but reassured by the inner gut feeling that as an animal lover, I'd enjoy every minute of this crazy experience. Also, I did challenge myself to get out of my comfort zone right?
As the days passed by I found myself curious about various things:
Perhaps most importantly....would Heidi have approved of this modern activity for her little goat friends in the Swiss Alps?
I looked forward to finding answers to some of these questions as I planned suitable attire that would be hoof proof (pretty proud of that term I just came up with). The day finally arrived and as I checked the route on good old Google Maps, I was delighted I'd be passing by Powmill....more importantly Powmill Milk Bar. This is a favourite family place of ours and I was already salivating at the thought of my delicious lunch en route. Every inch of me wanted to order pancakes with maple syrup and bacon, or one of the mouth watering homemade cakes on display, but as I was off on a healthy day out, I controlled myself and ordered soup and a sandwich (extra points for the brown bread option).
Continuing on my journey, the Scottish scenery was not quite as beautiful as it can be on a sunny day. In fact, as I got closer to my destination, the skies became gloomier and gloomier. I was disappointed that most likely the goat yoga would not be al fresco as I had hoped.
Sat nav. decided to give me a little extra adventure by sending me up a stony one way road to an entirely different farm to the one I was headed for. Lack of signs, or any goaty evidence made me realise I must be at the wrong place and I quickly scarpered before an angry farmer appeared. Later learned that this is a common sat nav problem and the other farm might want to think of putting a sign saying "No goat yoga here! Next farm" or something along those lines.
Dodging the random chickens I parked my car at the right farm (Bellcraig) and prepared myself for meeting my new farm friends. In fact, on closing my car door, I was greeted by Flora, one of the friendly border collies. Having previously met a friend's border collie, I knew exactly why she was gifting me a large pine cone and enjoyed playing fetch with her so much I could have skipped the goats altogether!
Next I met the other people joining the class and filled in a disclaimer warning about some typical goat behaviour that might happen. I'll admit I did feel slightly apprehensive at that point, as being head butted by a goat didn't sound quite so cute, but realistically I knew anything like that would be highly unlikely.
Excitedly the group made our way to a barn where we waited patiently for the stars of the show. In trotted (is that the word?) 2 cute little pygmy goats and full size Fergus and Angus. The non-goats spread ourselves out in a circle around the room and were tasked with trying a few pilates moves, with the added challenge of goat unpredictability. Pretty soon I had the answers to a few of my questions; they are a bit smelly but not unbearable, and they eat some kind of pellets.
As we continued with our downward dogs and planks, you'll be pleased to hear there was no farting (goat or otherwise), and whilst there was some goat pee, it wasn't on anyone in the class. No chewing of yoga pants, but the mats did get the occasional nibble, and the goats were very quiet, so the zen had clearly worked. Realistically there was not much serious fitness training going on, unless you count working your core with laughing at the wonderful ridiculousness of it all.
Next, given some biscuit treats we were tasked with taking some goat selfies. The advice given was to hold the biscuit at your shoulder and with some luck, your new goat friend would lean over your shoulder to get the treat, thus creating the perfect pic. Sadly, much easier said than done. I'm adding mine here because even though they're awful, I kinda love them. Look how happy I am! They remind me of selfies from a wild night out...except your bestie happens to be a goat and there's zero alcohol involved.
After the selfies, the two groups of friends made a pyramid with a goat at the top. Impressive stuff! Feeling a little awkward being the only one there alone, Jo the pilates teacher soon put me at ease and offered to take photos of my own goat pilates feats. On hands and knees I waited as we tried to coax little Betty or Maggie over and pretty soon I enjoyed a little goat massage for the first pic. To my dismay, Fergus also decided he wanted the same photo opportunity, and the 4 year old full grown goat jumped on my back as I panicked I might collapse in a heap under the weight! Seems I'm stronger than I realise, and I even managed to stretch my legs with him on my back into a mountain pose (well, pretty close). Feeling my face turn red from the effort I grinned and said the day's photo catchphrase- "Goats cheese!"
Driving home I kept smiling about the entire experience and would definitely recommend it. I'm sure would be even better outdoors on a sunny day. In case you're wondering, no hoof marks, no injuries, but the best night's sleep I'd had in a while! Goat yoga/pilates sure does tire you out. I think Heidi would approve.
Mentioned before but worth saying again, I'm a big believer in supporting small businesses which is partly why I'm doing this project. These are my honest thoughts on my experiences, I don't ask for discounts and these blogs are not paid for in any way.
I hope you enjoyed reading about my latest midlife adventure, what will I be up to next? Why not sign up to my newsletter for more details about the life of this newly adventurous forty something writer.