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The latest from Oregon: Yoga — with goats

A farm in Albany, Ore., hosts yoga classes - with their eight goats. (Video: Courtesy Lainey Morse)
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Lainey Morse didn’t mean to invent a new wellness activity.

She certainly didn’t mean to start a vacation trend for city-dwellers seeking an escape from the bustle of modern life, but as of early Thursday morning, her “goat yoga” practice has a waiting list of 1,200 people.

They’re waiting to take a regular yoga class on her farm in Albany, Ore., with one addition: Morse’s eight goats will be scurrying about and interacting with the yogis. In the warmer months, the practice takes place in a field. In the colder ones, it moves to a barn.

“When the yoga class is going on, they’ll wander around, they’ll curl up on their mats and fall asleep, they’ll cuddle up next to someone and interrupt their pose,” Morse told The Washington Post in a phone interview. Sometimes they climb on to their backs. “The look on these people’s faces is just pure bliss.”

It certainly seems to be — reviewers refer to the experience as “calming,” “relaxing” and “fun.”

Cherie Twohy, a participant, wrote of the class, “I’ve had a rough couple of years, and this put a smile on my face that I can’t remember feeling in a while.” Another, Abbie Hicks, was even more enthusiastic, writing,” There are no words for how fun and awesome this experience was!”

Lauralei Schuster found humor in the experience, writing, “The baby goats played all around us and climbed on laps or chewed on various things while their mamas looked on. The yoga was relaxing and energizing and occasionally hilarious when the goats jumped on someone.”

It’s become such a hit that most of the 1,200 will be traveling to join in.

“Pretty much no one in my local community comes to these classes. It’s mostly people that live in big cities like Seattle and Portland,” Morse said. “They all live in these big cities, and they don’t get to experience country life or have interaction with goats.”

In November, she quit a job she loved at Henderer Design and Build to manage the business full-time. If that sounds like a living encapsulation of the popular Twitter hashtag #FollowYourBliss, perhaps it is, but it’s how Morse has always conducted her life — and how the practice came to exist in the first place.

Ten years ago, the outdoorswoman from Michigan found herself living in the tan, endless desertscape of Phoenix, Ariz., desperately missing lush greenery, when she saw a glossy photograph of Oregon in a wall calendar.

“It was really mossy and beautiful,” she said. “So I flew into Portland and rented a car” to find a new home. When she rolled into Corvallis, she knew immediately, thinking to herself, “This is where I’m going to live.”

“It was a big leap of faith, and it totally paid off,” she said. “That’s why I named my farm No Regrets Farm.”

The next order of business in warding off regrets was fulfilling her lifelong dream of owning goats.

“I had never had them, never been exposed to them, never even touched one. But I’d see videos and think they’re just such cool animals.” So she acquired two baby goats — which she named Ansel and Adams after the famed photographer — and a copy of “Raising Goats for Dummies.

By fall of 2015, four small goats strutted around her farm, but that’s when tragedy doubled down on her.

Already in the middle of a divorce, she was diagnosed with Sjogren’s syndrome, an immune system disorder similar to lupus.

“Every day I would come home from work, sit out in my field and spend time with my goats,” Morse recalled. “It ended up being so therapeutic to me. It’s hard to be sad and depressed when you have baby goats jumping around you.”

She extended her good fortune to others by inviting harried friends to join her for what she coined Goat Happy Hour and, “by the time they left, they didn’t remember they were stressed.”

“When you get baby goats, you get super popular. Everyone wants to come to your house,” she said. “People who are just having an off-day or are depressed will ask if they can come spend some times with my goats.”

The crowds at her farm began growing — she even auctioned a child’s birthday party off, which proved fateful: at that party, one of the children’s mothers asked to hold a yoga class in the field with the goats.

As news organizations discovered the practice, her clientele grew. Recently, Oregon State University contacted her in hopes of providing goat yoga for some of its students, and Morse has partnered with a local winery to host the most zenful of tranquil activities: goat yoga with a wine tasting.

“I think the whole combination of country life, animals and yoga just went so beautifully together that people just resonate with it,” she said. “The world is so stressed out right now, and they don’t want to think about politics, ISIS and war. It’s a happy distraction.”

These days, eight goats wander around the tree pose-holding visitors.

The veterans are a 100-ish pound boar goat named Dodger, “who had some brain damage when he was a baby. … He’s not quite there, but it makes him so sweet and lovable, so he’s everyone’s favorite now,” and five Nigerian dwarf goats, “which are mini-goats,” Morse gleefully said.

Then there are the recruits, baby goats she named Romeo and Fabio, “because they’re going to melt those ladies’ hearts.”

Morse spends two to three hours each day with them, and “they basically think that humans were put on this earth to pet them 24/7.”

In their off-time, they have have become social media stars. When goats chew their cud, they enter an almost vegetative state that Morse finds “relaxing to watch” because “it’s so methodical.”

When the presidential debates began tearing the country apart, she began posting videos of the goats simply chewing and staring to her Your Daily Goat Facebook page.

“I got more likes and shares with those videos than any other they’ve ever posted,” she said. “It was proof to me that people would rather watch goats chew their cud than the presidential debate.”

Those videos, of course, are just a taste of what people come for — yoga, now with more goats.

“I know it may sound silly, but it really helps people. It helped me when I went through this diagnosis, which was just awful. I have had people who had cancer come to the classes and they’ll tell me, ‘That helped my head more than anything I tried,'” Morse said. “It’s not curing diseases or anything, but it’s helping people cope.”

Still, she’s still aware that it sounds a bit, well, odd to some, adding with a chuckle, “I can’t believe ‘Portlandia’ hasn’t called me yet.”

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