By Bella Ramon
In the past few years, yoga has quickly become one of the most popular forms of meditation and exercise among the millennial generation. The stretches in yoga are both nourishing and relaxing for anyone who tries them. Studies have shown that being around animals increases happiness through the release of endorphins. Including animals into yoga sessions creates an interesting take on a practice that has been around for thousands of years.
On Tuesday, October 22, Beth A. Wolfe held her popular goat yoga event at Faith Lutheran Church in Arlington, Virginia. Many attended these sessions with the hope of having a kid jump on their back long enough for someone to snap a picture. In this case, many participants were also excited to see the baby goats dressed up in Halloween costumes.
Wolfe, a certified trauma yoga instructor, did her training in trauma-informed yoga, which helps people with symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder. She works both privately with patients and manages a yoga studio. Wolfe holds both animal-related and therapeutic yoga events around the D.C., and even holds classes at the National Building Museum.
Three years ago, Wolfe began working with the Animal Welfare League of Arlington which enabled her to work with kittens and puppies. Since then, she has expanded to goats through Walnut Creek Farm and works with a woman who owns a macropod, or kangaroo sanctuary in upper Maryland.
Wolfe initially decided to take a new spin on ordinary yoga because “it seemed fun and interesting.” She firmly believes that animals and yoga are a great combination because “people who like yoga also seem to be animal people.” She quickly realized that these unconventional sessions surprisingly help those who attend.
Wolfe says that the transition from helping patients during the day to instructing a yoga class with animals that evening “really lightens things up”. She believes that goats are the perfect animal for this because “they are sweet and not aggressive.” They continue to put smiles on the faces of those who attend these sessions.
Wolfe partners with Walnut Creek Farm located in Salem, Virginia, and her longtime friend Dr. Maureen Noftsinger to host the goat yoga events. Noftsinger, the owner of Walnut Creek Farm, keeps the goats on her farm to help manage and maintain their pastures, but believes them to be their own “personal antidepressants.” These events not only increase the happiness of the participants, but also goat’s as well.
“[The goats] are very mischievous,” Noftsinger said, “and [the yoga] helps break up their routine.”
The idea of adding animals into the traditional practice of yoga stems from the common practice of animal-assisted therapy. According to the US National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health, the presence of animals is proven to lower both heart rate and blood pressure, as well as releasing endorphins that increase happiness. The participants usually come in curious and excited and leave feeling more relaxed and joyful.
Wolfe’s animal-encorporated yoga events have received such positive responses that she will continue holding them. Her ultimate goal in providing these sessions is “for everyone to leave smiling and happy.”