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Indiana 4-H group tries goat yoga as unique fundraiser

Emily Bertolino of Bedford tries to step into the Warrior II position while holding a goat during a goat yoga session at the Lawrence County 4-H Fairgrounds in Bedford, Ind. Thursday, May 9, 2019.
Emily Bertolino of Bedford tries to step into the Warrior II position while holding a goat during a goat yoga session at the Lawrence County 4-H Fairgrounds in Bedford, Ind. Thursday, May 9, 2019. Laura Lane

Faced with raising hundreds of dollars to buy trophies for kids competing at the fair this summer, 4-H Goat Club Leader Amanda Curren got to thinking about a fundraising event.

"Something different," she said, "that people might get some benefit from. Something fun."

She had access to a big open-sided barn at the Lawrence County 4-H Fairgrounds. And among her 92 club members was a plethora of young goats being raised for this year's fair competition the week of July 15, just a few months away.

"I heard that goat yoga was a thing," said Curren, who has never stepped into a downward dog pose or the Warrior 1 position. The topic came up at a goat club meeting.

"It was the kids, really, who convinced me to pursue it. They were like, 'Why can't we do something like that goat yoga thing?' I told them to let me see what I could do."

The Lawrence County 4-H Council must approve fundraisers, and Curren worried the members might not get on board. But she got the OK, and set out to find a trained yoga instructor willing to oversee goat yoga.

"I got a lot of no's. About 15 people said no," she said. A few were interested, but wanted to charge $100 per session.

"It's a fundraiser, so we couldn't afford to use that much of the money to pay someone. Our last resort was that we would make a video and do virtual goat yoga."

She was about to give up when she got Mia Parker on the phone. "When I said, 'Would you be interested in this?' she said she would love to. And I said, 'Here's the deal — we cannot pay you.' and she said she didn't want to charge us. And I told her how happy I was to have finally found her."

Parker was delighted at the prospect of a few dozen goats roaming through a yoga class in a barn.

"I like the idea of adding something different to the yoga practice," she said while posting fliers at Bloomington's downtown Soma coffeehouse the week before the first class.

The first 4-H Goat Club class was an adventure for everyone, humans and goats alike. On Saturday morning April 13, 33 baby goats and 15 yoga practitioners of varying experience and ability were vying for mat space.

There was a 60-minute class for adults, then an hour-long class featuring yoga and stories for children. "It really went well," Curren said. "Most of the people were from around here. I think they were curious when they heard about it."

Josh Hennion is 15 and new to yoga; he and his mom were in the front row for the first class. "It sounded kind of cool, and I've never played with goats before," the Bedford teen said while petting two goats that were practically standing on him. At one point, there were four young goats crowded onto his yoga mat as Hennion tried to find footing.

Friends Raisa Grissom and Emily Bertolino attended that first goat yoga class as well. The Bedford women are 28 years old, saw the notice on Facebook and made plans. "It was fabulous, so much fun. There were so many goats," Grissom said. "Two of them fell asleep on me when I was sitting in the Lotus position."

Bertolino, undaunted by a persistent goat called Bill, picked him up and attempted a Warrior II pose — while holding the goat in her arms. Her form, not so great yoga-wise. "I was here for the goats," she said, vowing to return as she hosed goat poop off her yoga mat before departing.

Curren declared the fundraiser a success; the goat club raised $455 over two Saturdays. She said more goat yoga classes will be offered in the fall, when there is a new herd of kids.

Curren did not participate in the classes, but said she and her goat-raising daughter have developed an interest in yoga. The goat-free kind. "I think we are going to give it a go," she said.

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Source: The (Bloomington) Herald-Times

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Information from: The Herald Times, http://www.heraldtimesonline.com

This is an Indiana Exchange story shared by The (Bloomington) Herald-Times

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