Tickling the Soul
Oct 01, 2020 10:47AM
By Dave DeGolyer
Working its way through the valley as evening settles in, the breeze is gentle, comforting. From the fresh-cut field atop the hill at ZiegenVine Homestead, the view is quite spectacular: sun slowly dipping behind steep hills in the distance. You’ll find this 103-acre farm with those panoramic views halfway between Corning and Keuka Lake. Here, Randy Ziegenhagen and Allison Lavine have combined more than their last names. They’ve combined a passion for nature and love of the land with their generous spirits to create something special.
Here on the homestead, for an hour at least, the rest of the world slips away. It’s just you, your yoga mat, that majestic sunset, that tranquil breeze, and the soothing voice of a yogi leading you through a sequence of poses, all leading you toward yourself.
Oh, there’s also a little bleating. A little nuzzling. And a whole lot of love.
Taking your eyes off the horizon, your breath deep, you look down into a face. Sure, the eyes, with their unusually long rectangular pupils, might take some adjusting to, but not those frolicsome ears, that mischievous smile, and the inescapable adorableness. I’m talking about goats, of course.
If you think “goat yoga” seems like an oxymoron, you’re not alone. Diehard yoga practitioners might perceive the insertion of goats into one’s practice as a contradiction. But spend a little time at ZiegenVine Homestead and you start to understand it’s the juxtaposition (and blending) of what you typically get from a yoga class and what you get from engaging with goats that makes it so rewarding.
Although, we should probably call it what it really is—goat cuddling, goat snuggling. You know, with some yoga poses thrown in. Chances are the perfect reverse side angle will become a somewhat stooped side hug. Child’s pose or downward dog offer up just enough backside that you become a small mountain peak, thereby allowing a goat to give in to its inherent nature and climb. A baby goat working its hooves into your spine is akin to tickling some hard-to-reach part of your soul.
Goats are social. Gregarious. Affectionate. While you interact with them, you find yourself infused with these qualities. While the goats are being their unfettered selves, it also allows you to do the same. Not by tuning out all of the outside world, as with a more traditional yoga asana, but by tuning out everything except the moment at hand. When that moment is full of joy, it can be life-affirming if not life-changing. It’s also an opportunity to give yourself permission to not take things so seriously, if only for that moment.
That is quite a gift that Randy and Allison are offering—the creation of an environment and experiences where you can feel safe, welcome, enriched.
“When people are actually on the land,” says Allison, “we offer farm tours. We were teaching people how to milk a goat before the pandemic. For now we are letting them watch the milking and we describe how to do it.” There are plans for expansion and additional offerings. Allison wants to build an outdoor kitchen with the intention of offering classes “teaching people things we have learned on the farm—from basic animal processing, making soap and salves, goat milk cheese, and more.” They’re currently researching what New York State will and will not allow, so stay tuned. Sure, goat yoga might seem a bit unconventional. But look beyond how unusual it might seem to the core aspects of the experience and you realize just how enlivening and rejuvenating it can be.
Primitive camping is also available at the farm. Goat yoga and goat-free yoga classes are held outdoors and, thus, are seasonal offerings. If you want to visit the animals, buy some handcrafted goat milk soap, or do a little rustic camping, reach out to Allison and Randy.
You can find ZiegenVine Homestead at 8469 Oak Hill Road in Savona. Go to ziegenvinehomesteadllc.com or call (607) 207-5730 for details and class availability.