Story and photos by JOYANNA LOVE
A local farm may be the last place one might expect to find a yoga class but that’s exactly what’s happening at Asher Farm through a partnership with Southern Roots Yoga.
In addition to the location, the classes feature another unique aspect — goats.
After finding a spot for their yoga mat, attendees are given containers of goat food to attract the animals.
Asher Farm is owned by Anita and Wayne Andrews.
The farm has Mini-Saanen and Nigerian Dwarf dairy goats, and there were plenty of baby goats when the yoga sessions first started. However, the youngest ones stayed on the fringes during the first day.
Anita Andrews initially approached Southern Roots Yoga owner Jennifer Kieras after hearing about yoga classes that had incorporated goats. The concept was a new one for Kieras, but she was excited for an opportunity to take yoga beyond the studio.
“I think it is a really fun way to bring awareness to yoga and sustainable living,” Kieras said.
The two developed waivers for participants, waited for the weather to cooperate and then picked a day to start.
Andrews said she wanted the yoga sessions on the farm to be “something fun and different for Clanton.”
“The one thing that we hope we can do with this farm is keep creating things where people can come and just enjoy the farm with us and share it,” Andrews said. “People are so removed from farm life and from food source, so we just really hope we can find different ways to share this with people. There is a miracle going on on a farm almost everyday … The cherry tree blooming, or the birth of a baby goat or hatching a chicken egg, even just a seed sprouting — every day you see some kind of little miracle and we just hope to share that.”
Each session starts with a time of petting goats and getting acquainted. Once the yoga starts, the goats mill around, looking for more food or trying to get in on the action.
In planning the yoga, Kieras focused on a sequence that would allow for “a lot of interaction with the animals, a lot of grounding poses, gentle poses where it is safe for the goats and the people.”
“I am a big believer in sustainable living and farming, so any time we can connect with the animals and get back to the natural way of the way agriculture is supposed to be in our society, I think yoga fits in really well with that because it is all about balance,” Kieras said. “When our food system is out of balance, our bodies are out of balance, when our bodies are out of balance our food system tends to be out of balance, so it’s very connected.”
She encouraged attendees to look behind them before doing any stretching poses, so they did not kick a goat.
“Since they are animals, it’s a little bit of a wild card,” Kieras said.
The goal for each session is really to have fun and just be outside.
“Obviously, today is just about fun, the form in yoga doesn’t really matter,” Keiras said during the first session. “If something doesn’t feel good don’t do it. If you find one or two poses that work for you, and you don’t like what we are currently doing, just go back to those one or two poses that you find comfortable.”
As she started a goat came up to stand beside her.
“This one is so cute,” Keiras said. “I love this one.”
At one point, the goat decided to participate by jumping on Keiras’ back.
During each session, Keiras explains how to do each pose as she demonstrates it.
Sometimes during a session at the farm, ducks from the pond will come waddling up, looking for leftover food.
After a session at Asher Farm, Lindsey Sammons said she had done cardio yoga in the past, but the goats got her interested in coming to the event.
“I love animals,” she said.
She enjoyed having a different approach to the yoga poses and stretches.
Yoga has been a mode of relaxation for Sammons.
“It’s very calming,” Sammons said.
Hannah Smith said it was her first time doing yoga outside. Relatively new to yoga, Smith said her love of animals is what interested her in the yoga on the farm opportunities.
“It just brings a smile to your face when they (the goats) come up and try to love on you,” Smith said.
Goats have been a part of Asher Farm for the past three years.
“I wanted to get to more of a self-sustaining way to live,” Andrews said. “I had been making soap, and I wanted to get into making goat’s milk soap and goat’s milk products … I got my first two and fell in love.”
The number of goats on the farm has grown to 30.
As the farm continues to develop, Andrews plans to apply for Grade A dairy certification in order to sell goat cheese.
In addition to goats and ducks, the farm also has chickens and a raised bed garden.
Southern Roots Yoga opened in 2018 and focuses on wellness–based yoga.
“When I moved back to Clanton about a year and a half ago there wasn’t much of a wellness yoga-based presence, so I really wanted to start up a yoga studio because it helped me so much in my life with my medical issues,” Kieras said.
Doing yoga enabled Kieras to avoid having a third spine surgery. This increased her interest and she began to look into the science behind it.
“I started to study the neuroscience and how it benefits healing, then it just went from there,” Kieras said.
Yoga opportunities at the farm are anticipated to be held as often as the weather makes possible through the spring and early summer months.
Southern Roots Yoga is also looking at other out-of-studio offerings with the possibility of events at wineries for yoga and wine, yoga at produce farms or hot yoga.
Hot yoga is “in a heated room, it is usually over 100 degrees … you can just go outside in Alabama (during the summer), I don’t need a studio for that,” Keiras said.
To reserve a spot at any of these sessions, visit southernrootsyoga.com.