I had an important revelation this morning: I don't hate yoga.
I actually quite like yoga—when it's outside, and when your sun salutations are saluting the actual sun.
I always thought I hated yoga, but now I realize that what I really hate is yoga studios. How can I possibly empty my mind with that music the play, and the clattering chatter right outside the door? How can noticing my surroundings help at all when I feel stale and sweaty, and I smell the rubber stench of hundreds of yoga mats before me?
Give me a purple picnic blanket under the shade of a tree in Griffith Park, with the morning breeze wafting over a not-so-distant perfume of horses, and the traffic from Riverside Drive and the 5 Freeway drowning out all my thoughts.
That's how I like yoga.
Oh, and it helps if a pygmy goat jumps on my back.
I gave "goat yoga" another try this morning, this time closer to home, but with fewer goats and many more fellow yogis.
There were so many people that I could barely hear our instructor call out the poses, but who were we kidding? We were there for the goats.
And, as a bonus, we got a miniature horse, too.
Of course, goats—like many animals—are motivated by food, so it's pretty easy to train them to jump on human backs during child's pose or downward dog.
It doesn't exactly come naturally to them—but it's not entirely foreign to them, either. Like cats, goats like a high vantage point.
I've never been so motivated to complete my asanas, and I've never felt so at peace in a yoga class.
And it wasn't just because of those creatures, who alternated between smiling...
...and who were at once mischievous...
Those little guys helped, of course, but I think my turnaround today was more about the fresh air, the dirt and grass beneath my warrior feet, and the wide open sky.
Ten years ago, I would've told you I prefer to be inside rather than outside, no matter what the weather. It had been that way my whole life—until relatively recently.
I missed out on the call of the outdoors in 7th or 8th grade, when I got to go on an orienteering field trip. Translation: I spent the day getting lost in the woods with my classmates.
And that's the most fun I had in the entirety of my primary and secondary education.
Upon my return home, I'd gotten in so much trouble with my mother that I think I'd blocked all the joy of it out. I only just recently remembered anything about that day that didn't entail my mud-caked sneakers and the punishments I endured afterwards.
The outdoors probably came calling a few times after that, but I never realized I was being beckoned.
Even when I went away to college, I had the opportunity to participate in a so-called "outdoor education" course—and my only response was, "Yich, who'd want to do that?"
Now, I wish I'd learned more early on. I've got a lot of catching up to do.
Photo Essay: Yoga With Baby Goats
Wide Open Spaces