Baby Go-Ga at Alaqua, aka How to Not Worry About Anything

My sister and I were having a conversation the other day, and when I said I’d been worrying about something recently, she said “Don’t worry. Life’s too short and it doesn’t help.” I always think of myself as someone who says this to other people rather than the other way around, so I quickly denied that it had been ACTUAL worrying, just little thoughts flitting through my mind making me feel anxious… but it’s all worry, isn’t it? If it’s not intentionally focusing on a fear, it’s unintentionally allowing our minds to put the negative what-if’s up front and center. And why do we do that?

Head rubs

Well, I can think of a few reasons: because as we get bumped and bruised up from life, we learn to put up shields against things; because we have things going on in our lives that aren’t going well; because of things we hear about in the news; because we feel guilt about something; because of fear of the unknown… I’m sure you can think of your own reasons. And while it’s one thing to intentionally focus on the negative, it’s another to expect the worst without even being aware we’re doing it!

It makes me want to go back to a time and place where everything was sunshine and rainbows and puppies, and the world was my oyster and I couldn’t fail – or at least that’s how it all looked in my innocence. Obviously, I can’t do that even if that time and place had been a real, tangible thing and not just a happy idea. But one thing I can do is notice when I’m feeling overwhelmed and negative, and find something to light me up again with smiles and laughter and fun and positivity. So, enough of the deep thinking for a moment, and let’s get to the sunshine and rainbows and… yoga and baby goats!

I first dipped my toes into yoga in Oregon, in 2008. I found it to be such a wonderfully pleasant whole-person experience, and have kept it up off-and-on over the years. I eventually switched over to hot yoga, which I truly love because of how all the tightness and stiffness and tension just melt away and you become basically a hot wet happy noodle. I recently started to start back up but haven’t gotten very far even though I admit out loud I paid up front for 7 weeks’ worth of classes and it’s now week 5 and I haven’t gone (that’s one of the things I was worrying about up above, ha). But hey, we’re talking BABY GOATS here, and who wouldn’t want to do yoga with baby goats hopping all over the place? Ba-aaaaah!

I heard of goat yoga a few years ago, and when I saw that Alaqua Animal Refuge in our area was offering this class, a friend and I jumped on it. We showed up and got checked in, then wandered around the refuge visiting with emus, dogs, cats, fluffy chickens, bunnies, an opossum, horses, donkeys, sheep, potbellied pigs, birds including a colorful parrot, ducks, and a whole army of goats. Once we got to the back corner, we entered a small fenced enclosure and set out our mats with the other yogis beginning to arrive. As soon as we were all settled, we got an introduction from one of the on-site veterinarians, who explained that they’ve been inundated with goats since Hurricane Michael hit the area hard six months ago and they took in somewhere in the ball park of 200 goats, about 80 of which were pregnant. They’ve finally caught up with sterilising the males, and many of the goats have adoption applications approved. Now they, and we, get to enjoy all those goat babies!

As our yoga instructor, Alissa, also an animal technician at Alaqua, started to explain we’d be doing a lot of ground poses to keep us down near the goats, another staff member opened the gate between us and the goat pasture and began to drop handfuls of goat food on each of our mats.

Soon, we were swarming with goats! They wandered in to nibble toes and nuzzle necks, rub their heads on our feet for a nice scratch, walk under our downward dogs, and generally cause happy distractions all over the place. We all had our phones out snapping pictures, and the goats stretched to see what was in our hands, jumped up to get love when we did standing poses, trailed all over our mats and between our legs as we were lying or standing. Poop happened, pee happened, but I think other than a little nugget dropping onto my mat I escaped scott-free.

Excuse me, do you have any goat food?

Alissa’s slow, gentle instruction reminded me of what I love about yoga: I leave the world behind at the door, or in this case at the gate. It’s just me and my mat, and I’m completely focused on the present moment and my poses. This time I got to be completely focused on the sweet silliness of the carefree little goats as I went through my stretches and poses, every few seconds a fuzzy face peeking over my shoulder or jumping up my legs. It was a good solid hour of laughing and teeny horn nubs and round baby goat bellies and the constant little bleats all around. As the class ended, I looked and saw that all of our faces were happy and relaxed. Ahhhhhh, just what I needed.

Sidenote: Alaqua Animal Refuge is an award-winning non-profit no-kill animal shelter in Freeport, Florida, and they rescue and care for all manner of animals, including pets and farm animals. They currently have lots of *adoptable* goats If you’re looking for a cute lil baby goat, I’m sure they have your perfect match! Just sayin.