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Ray Routhier

Portland Press Herald staff writer Ray Routhier will try anything. Once. During 20 years at the Press Herald he’s been equally attracted to stories that are unusually quirky and seemingly mundane. He’s taken rides on garbage trucks, sought out the mother of two rock stars, dug clams, raked blueberries, and spent time with the family of bedridden man who finds strength in music. Nothing too dangerous mind you, just adventurous enough to find the stories of real Mainers doing real cool things.

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Posted: August 15, 2017

Goat yoga and other alternative ways to get your om on

Written by: Ray Routhier
Tess, a 4-month-old Nigerian dwarf goat, frolics among yoga students durina a recent session at Sunflower Farm in Cumberland. Later, the students convened in a separate field to pet the older goats. Staff photo by Ben McCannaM

Tess, a 4-month-old Nigerian dwarf goat, frolics among yoga students during a recent session at Sunflower Farm in Cumberland. Later, the students convened in a separate field to pet the older goats.
Staff photo by Ben McCannaM

Think yoga is just for slim models from California who can bend themselves in half without breaking a sweat? Think there’s no possible way you’d ever want to try yoga?

What if we told you baby goats would hop about as you practice your mindfulness, and that you could even snuggle the cuddly creatures when the class was done?

“I think when it comes down to it, people want to be happy, and cute, furry animals are a sure way to make people happy,” said Ashley Flowers, who teaches goat yoga classes at Smiling Hill Farm in Westbrook. “Some people who come are really focused on the yoga, and some come just for the goats. Whatever makes them happy.”

Yoga with goats is just one way that yoga teachers are breaking down walls, literally, by taking yoga outdoors and expanding what it can be. Yes, it’s still about breathing and being mindful of what your body is doing, but you can be mindful of goats at the same time.

Besides goat yoga classes, yoga teachers in Greater Portland offer other kinds of value-added yoga classes, like on stand-up paddleboards or using hammocks or aerial equipment, sort of like in the circus.

Here’s a look at a few of the places offering these classes:

SMILING HILL FARM 781 County Road, Westbrook, ashleyflowersyoga.com; 5:30 p.m. Fridays through Sept. 9, $20

Flowers teaches classes at Smiling Hill Farm, a local dairy farm known for its barnyard animals, ice cream and cheese. This summer, the goats in attendance include three mama goats and six babies. A temporary pen is set up for the classes (so there’s no poop), and then people put their mats down right on the grass, with goats frolicking about. The first 15 minutes or so is a “meet and greet” with the goats, followed by an hour or so of class time.

“The goats jump or mill about, they might lay on your mat, they may munch grass,” said Flowers.

SUNFLOWER FARM CREAMERY 12 Harmon Way, Cumberland, sunflowerfarm.info; 5:30 p.m. Thursdays through Aug. 31, donations.

Sunflower Farm is a Nigerian Dwarf goat dairy. One of the farmers in charge, Hope Hall, is also a yoga enthusiast. But she found that milking and cheese-making were making it tough to get off the farm and into a yoga class.

“I thought, why not bring yoga to the farm?” said Hall, also an English teacher at Thornton Academy in Saco.

More than 25 goats live on the farm, and they’re not far away when yoga is being done. But there is definitely snuggling time set aside at some point during the evening. There are also cheese samples.

Ashley Flowers, working with Portland Paddle, leads a paddle board yoga classes at East End Beach in Portland. Staff photo by Gabe Souza

Ashley Flowers, working with Portland Paddle, leads a paddle board yoga classes at East End Beach in Portland.
Staff photo by Gabe Souza

PORTLAND PADDLE East End Beach, Cutter Street, Portland, portlandpaddle.net; 5:30 p.m. Thursdays and 6:30 p.m. Tuesdays through Labor Day, $28, $18 if you have your own board.

It’s a quite a sight, people standing, kneeling, sitting and bending while floating on paddleboards in Casco Bay. But that’s what passersby see during the SUP (stand-up paddleboard) yoga classes at East End Beach.

All experience levels are welcome and the paddleboards are anchored, so people don’t float away from the instructor. In most yoga, if you lose your balance or don’t focus, you might fall on your mat. Here you could fall in the cold Atlantic, so there’s even more incentive to focus on controlling your body.

Lily Dougher will lead an aerial yoga nidra workshop at Tula Studios in South Portland on Aug. 27. Photo courtesy of Lily Dougher

Lily Dougher will lead an aerial yoga nidra workshop at Tula Studios in South Portland on Aug. 27. Photo courtesy of Lily Dougher

TULA STUDIOS 146 Ocean St., South Portland, tulamaine.com; 6:30 p.m. Aug. 27, $25.

Tula Studios bills itself as a “sanctuary for everyday healthy living” with all sorts of classes. They offer something called aerial yoga nidra and will offer a workshop on it on Aug. 27. Practitioners are in a soft, fabric hammock, suspended by ropes or wires from above. From afar it looks like giant sacks of laundry being hung from the ceiling. But inside people are relaxing, feeling weightless in their aerial yoga swing. The instructor, Lily Dougher, says people really don’t have do anything physically. They can lay in the hammock, and she’ll guide them into deep relaxation, where breathing and thoughts are slowed. Dougher, a nurse, said that proper breathing is a focus of overall good health and one that many people don’t think enough about.

 

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