CHESTERTON — Dogs, cats and even miniature horses are common therapy animals. They bring comfort to the elderly in nursing homes, hospitalized children, veterans suffering from PTSD and people grieving loss and experiencing emotional crises.
The calming presence of animals can be key in a journey to physical and emotional wellness, and now, using animals in exercise sessions — particularly yoga — is the one of the latest health and fitness trends.
Yoga Mecca, a yoga studio in Chesterton, offered its first session of Goat Yoga on Sunday morning.
Andrew Morris, who owns Yoga Mecca, said having animals — in this case, a goat — at yoga sessions is very “therapeutic” for both the humans and the animals.
“It’s pretty popular all over the nation,” said Morris, of Chesterton. “It socializes the goat and it’s fun for the people.”
Floyd, a 2-month-old purebred Nubian goat owned by Mike and Jenni Kellstrom, was the star of Morris’ Goat Yoga class at the Kellstroms’ hobby farm in Chesterton.
The Kellstroms, who also have a few chickens and pigs, said they brought Floyd home as a companion for their heifer cow, Olive.
“Because, you know, they are herd animals,” Jenni Kellstrom said.
Through a friend of a friend, the Kellstroms learned Morris wanted to do a Goat Yoga session, and they offered to host it at their farm.
“I was never a farm boy, but once I met Floyd, that was it,” Morris said. “It was a perfect match.”
Ten people spread their yoga mats on the grass in the Kellstroms' sun-lit backyard, striking yoga poses with Morris’ guidance, as Floyd wandered among them, climbing on and under people mid-pose. All the while, from her pasture, Olive kept a watchful eye on her little buddy.
Most of the participants were self-described animal lovers.
“We are animal freaks at my house,” said Sarah Harth, as she bottle-fed Floyd and let him crawl under her “downward goat” pose.
Susan Swarner raised goats for 4H several years ago, and Floyd seemed quite drawn to her.
“It’s awesome,” said Swarner, of Valparaiso. “They climb all over you.”
Others, like Toya Garcia-Bradow, Jennifer Britzke and Tammy Lipscomb, are Yoga Mecca regulars.
“We’d follow Andrew anywhere,” said Lipscomb, of LaPorte.
“He always does something different,” said Britzke, of Chesterton.
With the popularity of his first Goat Yoga session, Morris is open to incorporating other animals into his workshops.
“I might want to do a dog or cat yoga in the next few months,” Morris said.
The normally meditative quality of yoga sessions was difficult to achieve at Sunday’s Goat Yoga session, as all eyes were on Floyd and his antics as he moved from person to person — making friends, giving goat kisses and instilling laughter.
“Today, it’s less about the yoga and more about the goat,” Morris said. “It makes people laugh, and that’s what it’s all about.”