Normally, keeping your earrings in during yoga is not a big deal. But during a class at Coco’s Ranch in Palo, Nancy Reagan is likely to come take a nibble, especially if they’re shiny.
This Nancy is one of the many Nigerian dwarf goats, all named after presidential or first lady figures, who participate in yoga classes regularly during spring and summer at the ranch.
Randy Banes bought the ranch around six years ago. The goat yoga, or “goga,” came later, after his girlfriend, Nancy Blanchard, spotted the trend on the East and West coasts.
“Kimberly and I joked about it for a while,” Blanchard said about her friend and now business partner Kimberly Jaeger-Arjes. “The more we thought about it, the less of a joke it became, and we decided to just do it.”
The women met in the corporate world, both working in the fraud department at Nordstrom, but left to pursue different career paths.
Blanchard, 49, began breeding Nigerian dwarf goats and working on the ranch, while Jaeger-Arjes, 31, earned her yoga teacher training certification.
In 2017, the two decided to combine their passions and host regular classes at Coco’s Ranch. The change in work environment was undeniably an improvement, both said.
“It’s so much more fun to be able to see this side of people,” Blanchard said. “Enjoying life and embracing life.”
Goga season begins and ends depending on the weather, with scheduling updates shared on Facebook.
During the summer, class sizes will peak with 15 to 20 participants and be relocated, depending on size and weather. The ranch has three enclosures used specifically for yoga — two outdoor pens and an indoor “studio” for rainy or chilly days.
Blanchard said deer will sometimes join the outdoor classes on warm summer afternoons.
Classes at the ranch are reminiscent of a typical yoga session, with down dogs, chaturangas and a focus on breathing and mindfulness. But there are also more smiles and lighthearted chuckles than typically seen in a studio setting.
Many of the poses aren’t in perfect alignment, as students do their best to step over goats, and that’s OK, Jaeger-Arjes said.
“It’s very different but very similar at the same time, just depending on energy,” she said. “Having goats in a class and being in an outdoor setting changes the dynamic for the human interaction. It lessens some intimidation that can sometimes be in a studio presence or in a little bit more of a silent environment.”
Jaeger-Arjes begins each class by asking students to begin walking in a circle within the enclosure where the class is set. This allows the goats to become familiar with the humans who have entered their space.
According to Blanchard, this is an important step to ensure everyone — including the goats — feels safe and confident.
“This is the space that they’re used to,” Blanchard said. “This is their home that they welcome visitors into.”
As class progresses, it’s not uncommon to feel four little hoofs on your back as you do a sphinx pose or to turn around and find a goat “doing their business” on one of the provided yoga mats. This makes for an exceptionally casual and almost comedic practice.
“There’s so much joy and laughter that comes from all of it and the experience of it,” Jaeger-Arjes said. “I’ve never been in any other profession where people that show up have the biggest smile and joyful presence.”
Some yogis become self-proclaimed “gogis” after a class at Coco’s Ranch.
Heather McSwiggin, 41, of Cedar Rapids, said she has fallen “madly in love” with the practice after just a few sessions.
“It’s not the most relaxing in the traditional sense, but the giggling definitely helps make you feel better,” she said after a class. “And the practice itself is a really good routine, even without the goats.”
If You Go
WHERE: Coco’s Ranch, 3330 Pleasant Creek Rd., Palo
CLASS DATES AND PRICES: https://cocosranch.com/
Also Check Out
WHERE: Lucky Star Farm, 2625 Highway 1 SW, Iowa City
CLASS DATES AND PRICES: (319) 683-4042,
WHERE: PuppyCow Farm, 1760 Orange Ave., Riverside
CLASS DATES AND PRICES: (563) 343-2948,
WHERE: Old MacDonald’s Farm, Bever Park, Cedar Rapids
DETAILS: Cedar Rapids Parks & Recreation will host these classes, which include classes for people 13 years and older, classes for parents and children five and older, and goat yoga parties. Be prepared for other farm animals to join the goats in the makeshift studio at Bever Park’s petting zoo.
CLASS DATES AND PRICES: http://bit.ly/2C5sRN9
REGISTRATION: (319) 286-5566, crrec.org