By Jill Hedgecock
Author of Rhino in the Room

Sixteen lambs and several ewes grazed peacefully while Hidden Villa’s certified yoga instructor, Jesse Muzzy, asked yoga class participants if anyone felt uneasy about the animals. Not surprisingly, no one raised their hand because all had signed up for the unique experience of practicing yoga in the midst of these gentle creatures. The debut lamb yoga class was first offered at Hidden Villa Ranch in 2018, a non-profit organic farm located at 26870 Moody Road in Los Altos Hills, a little over an hour drive south of the San Francisco Bay Area.

The participants in this inaugural class comprised an eclectic mix of first timers to certified yoga instructors. The novelty of the class drew people from all across the Bay Area – some from San Jose, while others hailed from South San Francisco and a few from Walnut Creek. Kat Roper, a certified yoga instructor,attended for the originality of the experience. Luis Cazares, one of the few men to join the class and who had never practiced yoga before, admitted that he’d come at the request of his wife. Lisa Blosser had gathered a bunch of friends for the event through a Meetup group called ‘Fabulous Women Over 35’ that she’d formed about a year ago after moving to California from out of state.

Lamb yoga is a spin-off from the increasingly popular craze of goat yoga—the brainchild of freelance photographer and farm owner Lainey Morse who offered goat yoga in conjunction with a birthday party in Oregon in 2016. Her recreational event blossomed from a fun activity to a full-time job. Though goat yoga is not as popular in the Bay Area as it is in southern California, goat yoga classes have been offered in San Francisco, Half Moon Bay and Santa Rosa. In contrast to baby goats that enjoy jumping on the backs of yoga participant’s and munching on clothing, the lambs at Hidden Villa were quite content to nibble hay as people transitioned from plank to cobra poses.

After a series of relaxation exercises, Jesse Muzzy, encouraged participants to embrace the class theme of fun and play. Jesse then guided the students through a series of poses from the classic strength pose of downward facing dog to high lunges to happy baby, where participants lie on their backs with bent legs, and grab the soles of their feet. The occasional bleat of a ewe added to the charm of the class and sent a wave of smiles through the group. People were challenged to complete balance poses like tree stance that involved standing with one foot planted and placing the other foot on the inside thigh to form the number four. Being sensible creatures, however, as the day grew warmer, even the temptation of alfalfa proved less desirable than the shade at the pasture’s edge, so the class concluded without the up close proximity of our hooved entertainment.

The warm, sunny day set the stage for a chorus of bird song to settle the class into a meditative state during the final shavasana pose (essentially lying belly up with palms facing skyward with your eyes closed while enjoying and appreciating the experience.) The recalcitrant sheep now clustered under trees and bushes proved great fodder for photo opportunities after the formal yoga class ended.

The yoga practice lasted 60 minutes followed by 20 minutes of playtime with the adorable lambs. The minimum age of 12 years proved a bonus for youngster Audrey Lang because she received some special time with her mother, Liz, away from her younger sister. I don’t know what groundbreaking yoga-animal experience Hidden Villa might offer in the future. Piglet yoga? Don’t laugh, but I think I might just want to try that class, too.

Hidden Villa was founded by Frank and Josephine Duveneck in 1924 and they offered it as a gathering place for discussion, reflection, and incubation of social reform. It houses the first hostel on the Pacific Coast (1937), the first multiracial summer camp (1945), and Hidden Villa’s Environmental Education Program (1970). The Trust for Hidden Villa was established as a nonprofit in 1960. The 2018 yoga class proved successful and was offered in 2019.

A version of this article appeared in the May 2018 edition of The Diablo Gazette

More about Jill Hedgecock:
Award-winning and internationally-published author Jill Hedgecock is dedicated to taking readers on high-stakes adventures. Her short stories, personal essays, and nonfiction have appeared in multiple anthologies and magazines. Rhino in the Room is her debut novel. She lives in California with her husband and three adorable dogs.

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Disclaimer: A similar version of this article was published in the California-based Diablo Gazette.
Image Credits: Diane Walsh