When you're trying to make yourself exercise, it helps to have an accountability buddy to motivate you and, if necessary, talk you through it. Unlike other gym friends, though, goats won't judge if you need a cuddle break mid-yoga class.
Mullenax Ranch has been making exercise less stressful through its California Goat Yoga program it started in May, and on Saturday, it will bring those kids — baby goats, that is — to the Kern County Museum for four sessions of Holiday Goat Yoga.
"A typical goat yoga session includes a beginner-level yoga class focused on relaxation and having fun," said Alex Mullenax, who owns the Tehachapi ranch with her husband, Ernie. "The goats themselves will walk around and play at-will around people, and we have a few who at some point will find someone to snuggle with and take a nap with that participant during the class."
The holiday theme comes in with the museum, which is currently decorated for Christmas Town, and a certain accessory the goats will wear.
"They'll be wearing their sleigh bells and we'll have time for fun holiday photos following the yoga," she said.
Goat yoga is a great introduction to yoga, making the session more laid back and approachable for newcomers who might be hesitant to join a class at a traditional studio.
"I've consistently had people tell me how relaxing and enjoyable the goats themselves are," Mullenax said. "Others have told me how they aren't a super active or yoga-ie person but attending a yoga class with goats breaks down that barrier for them to feel comfortable trying something new."
The humans aren't the only ones enjoying themselves. The animals, Nigerian dwarf goats, are too.
"The goats themselves love the yoga," she said. "It may sound weird but they know the routine and they know they're about to be loved on, pet and given warm people to snuggle and nap with, and (they) really seem to look forward to it. Goats love to be loved."
Although the goats are young, they have been quick to learn about their special yoga events. Mullenax called them "pretty awesome teammates."
"Those who have been doing goat yoga for a while now know what the phrase, 'Who wants to go to goat yoga?' means and will race me to the trailer door to load up," she said. "They're smart, a lot smarter than people give them credit for. I like to think of their personality like a dog crossed with a toddler, and (with) a very acute emotional intelligence."
Eventually the baby goats will age out of yoga, but many of them will stay at the ranch. For the others, there's a waitlist of people looking for a pet or an addition to their breeding program, Mullenax said, adding that those goats and the resident goats help clear debris that can be a fire hazard.
The Mullenax couple started their ranch about three years ago. They make and sell goat milk soap and bath products, in addition to the traveling goat yoga. Mullenax said she and her husband started the ranch as a "naive move to 'the country'" but that it has become a gift for which they are thankful.
"The goats have been an unexpected fit for us in how well they thrive in the diverse climate," she said. They are also "a great therapy on a rough day when you feel like giving up."
One goat started it all: Snowflake, a potty-trained pet who lived in the house with them for her first few months and even served as the couple's ring bearer. Her husband agreed that they could get more goats but only if they all lived in the barn, Snowflake included.
It didn't take long for people to inquire about meeting the goats, and goat yoga, while seemingly silly at first, seemed a good way to let people meet the goats and learn about the ranch.
Because the goat yoga sessions are likely the first time attendees have done anything like it, people don't really know what to expect.
"Everyone's a little stiff and awkward but after we get going the smiles start appearing," Mullenax said. "Everyone is laughing and interacting because with live animals, you never know what they're going to do, and goats are pretty hilarious."
While there is plenty of fun and laughter to be had, the relaxation and stress relief the goats offer might be the most valuable part. Mullenax said she's heard from people going through hard times who have found comfort in goat yoga.
"It's kind of cool how goats have this positive energy around them and so easily share it with others," Mullenax said. "There's really something special about goats, and it's exciting to be able to share this."
The four sessions at the museum are likely to sell out, with just a few spots still available. But never fear if you miss it this time around: In addition to regular sessions at the ranch in Tehachapi, Mullenax often brings the goats to other locations for goat yoga. Next weekend, the goats will be headed to the Madonna Inn in San Luis Obispo.
Mullenax said there will be more goat yoga events in Bakersfield and Tehachapi in 2019. Goat yoga has become so popular, she said, that the ranch has decided to make gift cards and "unlimited passes" for the upcoming year.
"I think we really had no idea just how much people love doing goat yoga," she said. "My goats have become celebrities, but they're all still really humble about it (except for a few). Stardom definitely agrees with a few of them!"