Goat yoga brings ‘light, love and gathering’ to Williamston

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Yoga practitioners often say “yoga is for everyone.” In the eyes of Shawn and Nick Cannarile, owners of Hilltop Views Farm, yoga is for everyone – even the friendly four-legged kind.

Goat yoga, otherwise known as caprine vinyasa, is a form of yoga in which live goats are part of the practice. Barnyard goats are set free to wander about the yoga room, to climb under and on top of practitioners, and to make the yoga class lively and lighthearted.

Lainey Morse, a Michigan native who now lives in Oregon, is the founder of Original Goat Yoga. She launched the business from her own farm after using her goats’ company as emotional therapy.

With Moore’s original idea came great success. There are now satellite goat yoga locations all around the country, including Hilltop Views Farm in Williamston.

At the time goat yoga was gaining popularity, Shawn and Nick Cannarile owned Hilltop Views Farm and some small, Nigerian Dwarf goats named Petunia and Oakley. Their goat family quickly grew as they adopted more.

“We bought this farm because our kids had gone off to college,” said Nick Cannarile. “This is our empty nest-syndrome thing for us to work on together. And we thought, well, if we have a farm we have to have some animals.”

Shawn was also an avid yoga practitioner around the time of the trend’s growth. A few of Shawn’s friends began sending her viral videos of goat yoga.

“My wife said, ‘what a great idea, let’s go ahead and do that,’” said Nick Cannarile. “So it became a part of the meaning of the barn for life love and gathering.”

The Cannariles, after a lengthy vetting process through the Original Goat Yoga studio owed by Morse in Corvallis, Oregon, became a satellite location of Morse’s goat yoga studio in 2018. They have been offering goat yoga classes ever since.

The Cannariles open goat yoga to the public once the beginning of fall hits. Their first public class of the season, “Original Goat Yoga Experience,” was Sept. 29. 

They are currently offering classes through October and November, including a goat yoga class followed by a happy hour and a goat yoga class paired with fresh Michigan apple cider. Classes cost between $35-40.

The Cannariles said they want Hilltop View Farms and its goats to curate an environment for healing and fun.

It’s a 100 year-old farm that sits atop a hill overlooking a vast expanse of farm fields. The barn’s large ceiling constructed of overlapping wood panels is lit up by fairy lights. 

A big, square window opens up the barn’s interior and allows those taking classes to see the sunset and the trees in the distance while taking part in the yoga practice.

“We’re in this awesome big barn with nice, low lighting,” said Emily Boccia, a Michigan State University veterinary student. “Everybody here is having a blast and laughing and there’s a general happy, good vibe.”

The environment created by the individuals involved – from the yoga instructors to the owners to the family ties that bring the whole Hilltop Views community together – makes for a welcoming and calming experience.

“This event is so great,” said Boccia. “It makes me feel super happy and de-stressed, which is totally the point.”

Goat yoga is welcoming to all abilities, and Jolene Roth, one of Hilltop Views’ yoga instructors, happily meets students wherever they are in their yoga practice.

“It’s a gentle class and nothing to be worried about,” said Roth. “The goats run around and some people don’t even always do the yoga, so people don’t have to be intimidated by the yoga aspect.”

Hilltop Views’ goat yoga brings people together. The Cannariles have welcomed practitioners from both a few towns over or from across the country.

“I feel that yoga brings a great balance to people’s lives,” said Anna Mukhina, a Michigan State student and a yoga teacher trainee learning under Belinda Thurston, owner of Lansing’s Just B Yoga. “I think that it’s wonderful for your own personally wellness, and especially with animals, I think this yoga also works on the human-animal bond.

 “The goats are sunshiny little creatures that bring love and light and I think that’s awesome.”