As I got some of my best stretches in (ever) on the yoga mats, I watched the goat circus around me. Eating, headbutting, communicating, collaborating. My heart felt light, I took each new stretch in with joy and shared smiles with the people participating around me.
Why did Yoga with Goats make so much sense to me psychologically? A bucket list item, that was never on my list? Was it that I stretched better than I ever thought I could? That I felt more connected and plugged in with people I didn’t know very well? That I felt more refreshed and relaxed than I had been in weeks? That I (gulp) really enjoyed exercising? Or maybe it was something else.
But let me start at the base of the Santa Cruz mountains. As I started my drive up the winding hills the day before a speaking engagement at the San Jose Marriott, I marveled at the views and vistas. The winding road was idyllic and I pulled over to snap some pictures of the breathtaking ride.
Making a strong right then left in between these mini mountains, a bicyclist appeared in my sights and I slowed down. “This doesn’t seem safe,” I thought to myself and appreciated that there was no cell phone reception to distract drivers. There are a lot of blind spots and curves on this road. A mile later a few motorcycles passed me. “Share the Road,” said a big yellow sign and then another, and then another.
As I am in the mentoring space, I thought of leaders in their cars trying to get to from point B to point C and others joining the workplace on bikes and motorcycles. Five generations in the workforce. Who owns the road? How do we coexist on the journey in a really positive, safe way?
As I arrived at the base of the farm and home of Original Goat Yoga, I had a long walk alone up to the top. You see I arrived an hour early. Being a city dweller, I was a little glad I had mace in my purse in case there was an unexpected visit from a mountain lion. I joined 20 other people including my brother Andrew and sister- in- law Rachael who organized the event with gluten-free Cake Boss cupcakes and. pink grapefruit Polar Springs. They were celebrating her birthday and their 7th year wedding anniversary.
“I don’t see them as separate,” said the owner and yoga teacher Lucy when I asked her which was her favorite goat. “They are always together, like a single unit in my mind,” she shared.
Andrew and I sat next to each other on light blue and grass green yoga mats. I was in from Boca Raton, Florida and admiring him as a grown man, husband, and top executive at a very successful high-tech growth company that delivers eco-friendly products to your doorstep. Twelve goats roamed around us as we took on new yoga poses led by Lucy. They ate grass, looked at us with curiosity, occasionally used our mats to do their goatly-business, nibbled on our clothes, kissed us, and every once in a while a ruckus would break out with some healthy head-butting. Lucy, the owner, and her husband Roman were masterful at keeping everything flowing with fun, frolic, co-existence. They also shared with us their life ‘off the grid’ a few miles away from the heart of Silicon Valley.
I reflected on the isolation I am seeing in the workforce (and have written about extensively). America’s Loneliness epidemic, corporate burnout. People struggling with new leadership (and feeling valued), need for more transparency, living in silos, fear of change, growth in their companies, toxic cultures, not wanting to disturb each other. The goats represented to me COLLABORATION. We welcomed and even reveled in their disturbing ways. Clumbsy, charming, huggable, feedable, we were happy to be in their presence. They were present and we became more present to the immense benefits of yoga and their charming antics. Disclaimer: If you are a true Yogi, this might be sacrosanct. I hope that I have not offended in sharing my perspective of this experience.
They weren’t lonely and that made us more plugged into the world around us. More plugged into each other, and the fresh crisp air flowing with children’s laughter and glee. We felt a kinship with their community and became part of it for that 60–70 minutes.
I laid down on the mat for some final stretches and thought about signing up for yoga courses back home. My body felt great. Just then a two-inch hoof slammed down an inch under my right eye. It surprised me more than it hurt. I knew I would have to share a part of this story in my speech the next day, a story of connectedness, in part to explain the black-and-blue shiner on my face. We closed the day with a shared “NAAAAAAAmaste” and a bow to each other. The goat was being a goat being his/her authentic self, and a little makeup covered it all up just fine but the experiential imprint stays with me to ponder.
Julie Kantor is CEO of Twomentor LLC. When not attending Yoga with Goats classes, she and her team help corporations, associations, and Universities build mentoring initiatives. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org