There is something to be said for a good joke.
That is exactly how this unique exercise, strangely therapeutic and most of all fun experience was born 5 years ago for this Niagara Region Yoga Instructor, Melina Morsh.
Melina having had a corporate background made a transition to the small community of Niagara on the Lake with her two boys in 2014 to open up her own Yoga studio for area locals. It didn’t take long before Melina wanted more and being surrounded by Farms and Wineries in the area, she jokingly said “Wouldn’t it be hilarious to do yoga with goats?”
Well the funny part is, she decided to do just that!
Melina launched the first ever Goat Yoga classes in 2015 and it caught the publics attention in a very meaningful way. The classes were sold out online in less than 20 minutes and shared all over social and media channels across the province of Ontario like wildfire. Her “joke” was a job that came to life overnight and to this day she still recalls that time with a laugh, “If you told me 10 years ago this would be my life, I wouldn’t have believed it for one second” she stated, “I love my job”.
With proper insurance, compliance with the Health Board and of course the integrity to do thing the “right way’, Melina started offering around the year classes for those as young as 10 years old, right up to seniors looking for an interactive, hands – or in this case, hoover on, memorable experience. Hosting sessions of 25-30 people, the class starts with 30 minutes of Hawtha Yoga followed by 30 minutes to just enjoy and take pictures with the goats that are free to roam and mingle in and around the class start to finish.
“Goats love people”, she shared “They have a natural herding instinct as they originated in Africa where they got used to being around larger animals. Goats would naturally herd and instinctively feel the energy of the larger animals which would be a warning of any predatory danger”. “The breathing rate of other animals and humans provides a good or bad energy for goats, “ she continued, “they acknowledge a new herd is present each class that we hold and it is amazing to see them gravitate to one or more individuals that radiate a positive energy, whereas they shy away from and avoid what they feel is presenting the latter”.
As all businesses in the Niagara area felt the effects of Covid-19 with the sudden closures in the early days of Summer, so did her goats. “They got depression real bad and would be moping around each day. I would pull in with the trailer and they would assume we were loading up to work with the much adored humans they have shared benefits of needing”. She was told by a brain surgeon the reason for why these mutual benefits are shared between both humans and this playful farm animal. “Goats release oxytocin and humans release endorphins which then create serotonin”.
Serotonin is a chemical that has a wide variety of functions in the human body.
It is sometimes called the happy chemical because it contributes to wellbeing and happiness.
Well maybe that’s why her goats also kick it to 80’s music while in class – something about that feel good vibe can sure be felt out on a farm, jamming to Blondie, downward dogging after a few glasses of wine or perhaps a puff of your favourite strain… with goats. Oh yes – the site is cannabis friendly too!
This interactive petting zoo has been visited by influencers, University Frosh Groups, Bachelorette Parties, Corporate Team Building Events and even Family Reunions. They also like to hit the road and have seen the likes of Winery Public Events, Artisan Fairs and Music Festivals in the region. These under acknowledged barnyard kids have a larger social calendar than most adults I know, perhaps we are doing it all wrong as people?
True, the attitudes post quarantine were lifted yet again for Melina’s goat staff but also for the people attending she admits. “Generally people are looking for things to do and seem to have an appreciation for this simple yet rewarding form of exercise. People who may normally be intimidated the first time doing yoga in a regular class tend to come with a good energy which as we know, the goats also sense and mimic, making for a more energetic class”.
But Melina won’t stop there. I had the pleasure of meeting “Jennie” the newest addition to Fox Den Yoga is a two year old affectionate, snuggly, personable – donkey. She will be joined by another female and a male donkey over the upcoming months as they gear up and get saddle ready for the Spring. Now I know what you are thinking, why would anyone want to ride the donkey down a pony trail?
These donkeys will carry all the most essential items for intimate picnics on top of the escarpment overlooking the fields below. Charcuterie, Blanket and of course a bottle of wine will ride Jennie and her friends for the Vineyard Walks planned with the donkeys for 2021. These loyal animals will peacefully enjoy the scenic adventure along with you, as well as come in for some cuddles if you let them. Jennie and I had a snuggle in advance so yes, hit that ass indeed. (eye roll, I know!)
We will definitely be back to this nature and wellness activity run by a creative entrepreneur, who juggles being a single mom with her own children, 3 donkeys and a few dozen goats has made a joke into her own backyard empire and we were happy for the hospitable experience that notably – everyone must try at least once.
Safety protocol and new measures for Covid-19 are in place to allow for social distancing, pre screening and a hygienic, safe environment. You can find out more about hours, location, cost and what to expect by visiting https://www.foxdengoatyoga.com/site/home