Mount Vernon Canyon Club in Golden, Colo., opened its goat yoga festival to the public and about a quarter of the 70 people who attended were non-members. “A lot of people don’t know about this club, and this was good exposure,” says Wellness and Fitness Director Lili Bell Shelton.
Some people firmly believe that if no one’s talking about you, then you’re irrelevant.
Well, relevance, meet goat yoga. Because it’s not a stretch to say that goat yoga is as good a conversation piece as any topic.
“When you mention goat yoga, people either say, ‘I’ve heard of it’ or ‘What’s that?’” says John Stebbins, General Manager and Chief Operating Officer of Mount Vernon Canyon Club in Golden, Colo. “It causes conversation, and that’s what I like.”
Lili Bell Shelton, Mount Vernon’s Wellness and Fitness Director, was in the know about goat yoga, which started in Oregon, and she wanted to get people to do more than talk about it. She wanted them to try it—not only for the health benefits and fun of it, but to expose people to Mount Vernon CC as well. She also likes to keep up with the latest fitness trends, and goat yoga has “taken off’ in Colorado, she says.
In July, the property held a goat yoga festival, featuring eight Nigerian Dwarf (baby) goats, which were provided by nearby Rocky Mountain Goat Yoga. The outdoor event included two one-hour goat yoga classes with 50 minutes of yoga led by a professional instructor, followed by 10 minutes for photo ops and “goat snuggle time.” A fiddler played live music before, after, and between classes, and Mount Vernon’s culinary team prepared breakfast burritos, sandwich wraps, and salads that were available for purchase.
“I wanted to make it a festive event,” says Bell Shelton.
For the classes, Rocky Mountain Goat Yoga set up an outdoor corral and blue umbrellas, and owner Jim Naron and his helpers used treats to entice the goats to do the things they wanted the animals to do—like jump up on people’s backs. Of course, the goats are just as likely to do the things that they want to do themselves—like nibble on yogis’ hair, give them a gentle nudge, scoot under them, or plop down on their yoga mats.
The event, which was open to the community and cost $38 per person, ran from 8:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. No one younger than age 5 was allowed to participate in the goat yoga sessions, and Bell Shelton says a good mix of males and females, along with a handful of children, took part.
Altogether, about 70 people attended the two sessions. Each class consisted of about 30 participants and a few observers. Stebbins fell into the spectator camp, and he liked what he saw.
“I thought it was a wonderful event,” he says. “Looking at the smiling faces of the participants, you could tell how much they enjoyed it.”
Bell Shelton agrees. “There was a lot of laughing,” she says, “and that is therapeutic.”
The event was also designed to take advantage of Mount Vernon Canyon Club’s setting, a spacious property that overlooks Denver.
“We try to do some unique things for the members,” says Stebbins. “The use of our outdoor venue with the views added to it.”
The yogis also found that goat yoga offers more than fun and laughter. The sessions provided a good workout because they took place on a field, where holding a pose on uneven grass can be a bit more challenging than doing so on a studio floor. The participants also had to be ready for a goat to pounce on their backs, mid-plank or mid-downward dog, at any moment.
Between the two sessions, the break gave festivalgoers a chance to enjoy food and fiddle music. However, it gave the goats a welcome respite as well.
“The goats need rest time between classes, because they get overstimulated,” explains Bell Shelton.
Of the attendees, three-quarters were members and one-quarter were non-members.
Stebbins says three women who live “down the hill” from Mount Vernon Canyon Club told him they had never been to the property before.
“A lot of people don’t know about the club, and this was good exposure,” adds Bell Shelton, a Denver native who has worked at Mount Vernon for 25 years and lives near one of the locations where Rocky Mountain Goat Yoga gets its goats – many of which are rescues.
The club promoted the event to nonmembers through a spot on a local television station. To let the membership know about the festival, the staff included a writeup in the club newsletter, posted information on the club’s website, sent out e-communications, and put up posters and fliers around the property. News about the event also traveled by word-of-mouth.
“Our membership tends to be spontaneous, but as soon as we started marketing this event, we had people signing up right away,” Stebbins says.
Rocky Mountain Goat Yoga has its own liability insurance, and goat yoga participants signed a waiver to take part in the event.
The festival also allowed the property, which was founded as Mount Vernon Country Club and changed its name to better reflect its identity a few years ago, to re-introduce itself to the community.
“We don’t have golf,” notes Bell Shelton. “When people think of a country club, they think of golf.”
However, the property has a swimming pool as well as strong racquet sports programming, including tennis, platform tennis, and pickleball. In August Bell Shelton also organized a half-day, community-wide wellness mini-retreat, featuring a healthy lunch, spa vendors, water aerobics, meditation, and (goatless) yoga.
Goat yogis can expect an encore performance from their hooved friends, however, as Bell Shelton now plans to hold the goat yoga festival at least once a year. And Stebbins says the property likely will build on the event’s success by adding a third class on the next go-round.
“It was just a fun, healthy atmosphere, and it was good exposure because it was unusual,” says Bell Shelton. “A lot of people were talking about it.”