It seems like nowadays, more and more people are trying to deal with the daily stresses life sometimes dishes out by finding creative ways to improve their mental health. Lainey Morse, 47, originally from Muskegon, founded one of the more unique (and adorable) ways to help stress melt away.
If you consume any mainstream news outlets, by now, you’ve probably heard of Goat Yoga. Morse’s creative business has been featured on CNN, BBC, CNBC, The Washington Post and many other media outlets.
Morse, who now lives in Bellfountain, Oregon, explained the humble beginnings of how Goat Yoga basically started unintentionally.
“I think all good ideas come by accident,” Morse said. “I had a corporate job for 10 years doing marketing and I got a couple goats and I absolutely went nuts. I’m a photographer, too, and all I would do is just come home and take pictures of my goats and put them on Facebook. And I thought, ‘Oh, all of my friends are going to unfollow me because they’re probably so sick of goats.’”
It turns out, however, that pictures of goats online struck a chord with many people. Morse started a Facebook page called “Your Daily Goat” which quickly gained notoriety with 15,000 followers. Morse quickly learned that people like goats and said when she told people that she had goats, everybody wanted to come visit and play with them.
She decided to give the people what they wanted and started doing a “Goat Happy Hour.” One of the happy hour goers just so happened to be a yoga instructor and brought up the idea of having a yoga class on Morse’s farm.
“We’re standing out in my field… by this time I have like six goats and she’s like, ‘It’s so beautiful out here, you should let me have a yoga class,’” Morse said. “And I thought to myself, ‘You know, if there were humans in my field doing yoga, those goats are gonna be all over them.’”
In 2016, Morse and her friend thought the idea of goats crawling on people while they’re doing yoga was funny but also a cool idea. They decided to try it, and Morse took some pictures and put them on her Facebook page. She didn’t expect much of reaction other than friends and family reacting to the photos. Little did she know, Goat Yoga was officially on the radar.
“We’re like, ‘Who is going to come to something like this?’” Morse reminisced. “I put it on Facebook, and all the sudden, there were 400 people that wanted to come to my class. So I took that event down and I’m like, ‘I can’t have 400 people on my farm.’ And so, I made it so people had to register… The first class was sold out and it just snowballed after that.”
Morse photographed the first ever official Goat Yoga class and sent the photos to a magazine called “Modern Farmer.” Within minutes, they replied back to her saying the pictures were adorable and wanted to do a story on Morse and her creation. That was the first story, of what would become hundreds published about Goat Yoga.
Morse’s business idea has sparked numerous copycats with there now being over 500 different yoga businesses involving goats. Her original brand, however, now has 10 locations including one in Lansing.
Morse talked about a time where she was going through a rough patch in her life both personally and health-wise. She would spend time with her goats out in the field and felt the therapeutic presence of her goats was the best thing for her.
“It just all started because I got really sick and I got a divorce and I was really going through a hard time,” Morse said. “And I would just come home from work everyday and go out in the barn or go out in the field and sit with the goats. And I thought, ‘You know, they were better therapy to me than any medicine or anything…’ I just kind of feel like my mission now is to make sure that goat therapy is a thing.”
Despite the success of Goat Yoga, not everyone is on board with the idea. Goat Yoga has received some push back from religious extremists, as well as animal activist groups. Morse talked about some of the reactions she has had to deal with over the last two and a half years.
“I deleted every single Facebook person, friend I had because I had people accusing me of being a cult leader,” Morse said. “And, I’m gonna own that one because I created the cutest… baby goat cult in the world. It’s just ridiculous. It’s a lot of religious crazies that are out there. I get a lot of animal activists, PETA saying that we’re just being terrible people for using the goats to make money. But they must not know goats because goats love human interaction and it makes them happy.”
Morse refuses to listen to the naysayers and has continued to press forward in her attempt to grow Goat Yoga. She recently released a book titled “The Little Book of Goat Yoga: Poses and Wisdom to Inspire Your Practice.” She talked about the intention of the book and what inspired her to release it.
“I want it to be used as therapy,” Morse said. “There’s not enough mental health services out there, and this is something they could totally use. I’ve seen it help so many different types of people and I just wanted the real story out there and I thought that would be the best way to kind of get it out into the world.”
Mental health has been at the forefront of Goat Yoga’s business model since the beginning and Morse is taking steps to assure that they continue to help people in whatever way they can.
“People need to do what brings them joy, within reason,” Morse said. “And that’s what Goat Yoga is about. We actually are spooling up a non-profit called ‘The Goat Yoga Fund.’ It will be a national non-profit where we go into the communities where my locations are, and we partner with mental health charities, other non-profits… We just felt this was the best next step to create. We do corporate health and wellness events all over the United States with people like Nike, Google, we go to Facebook campus… Doing things that bring you so much happiness, it’s again, not healing diseases but it’s helping your head. It’s helping make you happy, so that’s what our focus is.”
To learn more about Morse’s mission at Goat Yoga or to sign up for classes, visit their official website at goatyoga.net.