It all started on a farm in Oregon when Lainey Morse started offering the first Goat Yoga classes. Before long, more than 900 people got themselves on the wait list for the unconventional class and clones of the original Goat Yoga at No Regrets farm started popping up all around the US and is even gaining popularity in other countries.
Goat Yoga may be a new trend but human and goats have a long history together. The goat was one of the first animals domesticated by humans with evidence going back to 10,000-11,000 years ago in Neolithic farms in Western Asia. Many farms in Iran still use goats not only for their meat, fur, and milk, but also because their smell is said to be a natural deterrent for scorpions.
From Gods to Goat Yoga
In mythology and religion, half-goat-half-man deities are prevalent among many cultures. The most recognizable being Pan, the Greek god of nature who is also associated with fertility, sexuality, and abundance. In Ancient Egypt, goats were worshiped at Mendes. The images of the Goat of Mendes over the centuries gave rise to the myths of Baphomet and the Satanic images of goats and demons in Christian and Jewish holy books.
Even though goats, with their horns and beards, were associated with evil while sheep and lambs became regarded as symbols of goodness and as chosen protected ones, many cultures also viewed goats as protectors and a good livelihood – likely because of the deep connection between humans and goats from pre-history when our ancestors began moving away from being hunter-gatherers to becoming agricultural based communities.
Paris-based, Iranian Artist, Raheleh Roshandel, exhibited her paintings at Tehran’s Shokuh Gallery in July to show how the goat was a symbol of reverence in her culture.
Rather than being a demon in a pentagram, goat motifs and symbols in Iran keep people safe from the devil. It was an angel in ancient Iran and Roshandel wanted to reintroduce that traditional story to her country and the rest of the world.
“I simultaneously conceive the artworks and apply the colors. The paintings are my personal perception. That is, I deem myself a lady from the Achaemenid era who wants to keep the devil away from home and then I begin to paint that goat. I actually consider myself an artist from those years,” she told the Tehran Times.
Although they may have lost much of their significance as religious symbols or gods to be worshiped, goats are still valuable to this day. Goat meat is the most widely consumed meat around the world with the least amount of religious taboos against eating it. And research has shown that goat milk is said to be more beneficial that cow milk.
Humans are probably also fascinated by goats because they are intelligent creatures that may even be smarter than man’s best friend. According to researchers from the Queen Mary University of London, goats are so clever that they may even be able to form more emotional bonds with humans than dogs can.
Not only could goats solve a problem of breaking into a box using a complicated set of levers, they could remember that solution upto four years later without being prompted. The researchers also noted that the goats in their study culd look imploringly at humans, just like dogs do, when a treat or reward is out of reach.
“Our results provide strong evidence for complex communication directed at humans in a species that was domesticated primarily for agricultural production, and show similarities with animals bred to become pets or working animals, such as dogs and horses,” said Dr, Christian Nawroth, one of the authors of the study.
With such deep evolutionary, cultural, and religious bonds between humans and goats over the millennia, it’s no wonder than humans are once again drawn to the power of goats through a practice like Goat Yoga. It may be a trendy, novelty class for now, but it’s one that has been thousands of years in the making.