St. Petersburg’s Jill Ryan laughed as Dolly Parton, a small, black and tan goat, jumped onto her stomach.
Then Dolly Parton kept moving closer to her face.
To Ryan’s surprise, Dolly Parton even tried chewing on her hat.
“I thought you were in love with me, but you just want my hat,” Ryan said with a laugh.
Ryan has had such goat interactions before as she is a regular at Corinn Smith's Blissful Goat Yoga class in Myakka City.
On March 18 after the class, Ryan said the dozen goats running and playing during the yoga provides an “extra level of fun” to her experience.
Smith started hosting Blissful Goat Yoga classes in January. It was in 2021 when Smith was at a goat yoga class in Tampa when she saw two military veterans come into the class. After one of the veterans, who had a prosthetic leg, sat down, one of the goats decided to have a little fun with him. To everyone’s surprise, the goat took hold of the veteran’s prosthetic leg and ran off.
Smith was shocked, but the veterans laughed.
She said the veteran’s wife turned and told her, “That’s the first time in years my husband has laughed.”
Smith saw the healing powers goat yoga could have on people.
“I just wanted to make people laugh,” she said. “I knew how healing this could be for people. We’re all struggling from something. I’ve had people come out here with all kinds of different types of pain. They hang onto these animals, and you can see whatever it is just melt away. It’s a healing that you didn’t know you needed.”
Smith decided to pack up her previous home in Clearwater, sell everything and buy 5.5 acres of land in Myakka City in December 2021. She decided to use her 35 years as a certified yoga instructor to start providing goat yoga.
“I never expected to go to a yoga class, and have it disrupt my entire life,” she said while watching the goats play by the barn. “I found this little slice of heaven.”
Smith, a Navy veteran who spent 14 years as a fire investigator and 10 years in law enforcement, suddenly was a farmer.
“My family owns a farm, but I was not a farmer, and now I’m a farmer,” she said. “I’m so excited to say that. This was not necessarily the plan, but I’m the luckiest person in the world. I laugh every day of my life without fail.”
Smith hosts yoga classes on Saturday and Sunday mornings in a corral in her backyard.
“We’ve just had so much fun,” she said. “It gives people an excuse to come out here, relax, laugh and get outside. What we’re all starving for, after all this craziness in the world, is to sit here and just forget about everything.
Besides the goats, she also has six donkeys who don't mind snuggling with the participants.
She said the moment she opens the gate to the corral, her 12 goats are excited because they know it's time for yoga.
“Ready for the running of the goats?” Smith asked the three people who attended her class March 18.
The goats came stampeding through the gate, instantly running up to the three class participants and yoga instructor Brooke Woodworth.
During the class, Jill Ryan and Tim Ryan tried to follow along with the yoga poses as best they could, but it wasn’t always easy with Charlotte, a big brown and white goat, trying to eat Jill Ryan’s hat or Halo, a baby brown goat, standing underneath Tim Ryan while he tried to move from the table top position in which he’s on his legs and knees into the upward dog position where he’s laying down but with his chest stretching toward the sky.
Woodworth led the group through poses — “goat allowing,” which meant if a goat wasn’t in their way.
In the middle of class, Daisy and Opal, two of the six donkeys on property, decided to make their thoughts on the yoga class heard, and brayed loudly.
“I hear ya,” Tim Ryan said with a laugh.
Although it is a yoga class, Smith said participants can do as much or as little yoga as they want.
She’s seen some participants take the yoga class seriously while others decide to simply sit on their mats and cuddle a goat.
Jill Ryan said whenever a goat jumped on her back, it felt like a massage. But she said the yoga class had a good flow.
“It was a great way to start a Saturday,” she said. “Being out in the country air, breathing in all that fresh air and being around the animals is a great experience.”
With her military and law enforcement experience, Smith hopes to offer free classes starting in the fall to people who serve in the military and are first responders.
She plans to allow those who serve in the military and first responders to come to the barn and sit in one of the cabanas to have quiet time with the baby goats. They will be able to bottle feed the baby goats and snuggle with them.
“You’ll have time to relax, meditate or just play with animals or snuggle with them,” Smith said. “Everybody can heal in a different way. We cannot appreciate those people enough.”