Goat yoga anyone?

Event raises money for new women’s homeless shelter

-Messenger photo by Joe Sutter
A well-timed bleet amidst the calming sounds of music plus yoga instructor leading the group in deep breaths — is enough to get Laurynn Anderson and the rest of the participants cracking up at Lotus Community Project’s Goat Yoga session Sunday afternoon. This is the fourth Goat Yoga fundraiser Ashley Vaala has held for the new women’s shelter. Why goats? Because they are funny, and bring a smile to people’s faces with their antics as they wander through the yoga session.

VINCENT — Calmness descends on the room as gentle music, with chimes, plays under the instructor’s voice — suggesting deep breaths, a centering of the body and mind, a relaxed position in connection to the ground.

Then a bleating goat in the center of the room cuts through loud and clear, and the participants can’t help but laugh.

This is the fourth time Ashley Vaala has held a Goat Yoga event as a fundraiser for the Lotus Community Center, but the first time it’s been held at the recently remodeled church in rural Vincent, which will soon be the site of a new women’s homeless shelter.

Why add goats to yoga? Just because it’s fun.

“We had a goat when I was a kid, and we lived on an acreage,” Vaala said. “I’ve just loved goats ever since. … It’s really hard to not be happy around baby goats.”

-Messenger photo by Joe Sutter
An empty bed frame stands at one side of the former church sanctuary in what’s now the Lotus Community Project women’s shelter. The sanctuary will be split into seven or eight rooms with cubicle walls, and a set of bathrooms, showers and laundry room have been built into the front of the church where the pulpit once stood.

On her yoga mat waiting for the session to start, Heather Tjernagel seemed to agree.

“I don’t even like yoga, but I wanted to come,” Tjernagel said. “What better way to spend a Sunday afternoon?”

Of course, it was also a good cause. The Lotus project has made quite a bit of progress over the past year, but more funds will be needed in the future.

Vaala, who is executive director of the project, is extremely grateful for the generous donors and company sponsors.

“We raised over $100,000 in a year, which is huge, considering we’re not even open yet. It’s all community support,” Vaala said. “Our renovations have cost about $100,000.”

-Messenger photo by Joe Sutter
Yoga instructor Meghan Pitstick, of Rockwell City, leads about 20 women in stretches while the littlest goat tries to see if her finger is worth nibbling on at the Goat Yoga event Sunday afternoon.

The building itself, the former St. John’s Lutheran Church along County Road D14 near Vincent, was donated to Lotus. After that, three new furnaces and air conditioners were installed, Vaala said. All new electrical work, duct work, and septic system needed to be installed.

Workers took the front of the sanctuary and built walls and a tile floor for showers and bathrooms. In the former sanctuary, cubicle walls are on their way in to create either seven or eight rooms, most of them 12 by 12.

The shelter should be able to hold 20 or so women if they’re single, or fewer if they come with families, Vaala said.

“We’re looking to be open in the next 30 days,” she said. The board will decide on an exact opening date during its meeting later this month.

“We have gone with a pretty conservative budget of probably $250,000 per year in operating expenses,” she said. “We had a couple different plans to look at, and we decided to go the very conservative route at first, so it is not too much burden on the community.”

-Messenger photo by Joe Sutter
Danae Pingel stretches the other way to pet a passing goat during the Goat Yoga fundraiser Sunday afternoon.

The goats arrived courtesy of Rachel Long, with the yoga session led by Meghan Pitstick, of Rockwell City.

Previous events were held at the Webster County Fairgrounds, Vaala said, since the Lotus building wasn’t ready yet.

The next goat yoga will be held Jan. 19. Space is limited, and those interested need to sign up ahead of time online. Find an event link at facebook.com/LOTUSCOMMUNITYPROJECT.

Future events should have even more baby goats thanks to a number of pregnant animals on Long’s farm, Vaala said.

Lotus will serve Webster, Hamilton, Humboldt, Wright, Calhoun and Pocahontas counties, and will be open to any woman.

-Messenger photo by Joe Sutter
Goat Yoga — exactly what it sounds like. One of Rachel Long’s goats trots through the group of about 20 taking part in the Lotus project’s fundraiser, enjoying both the stress-relieving positions of yoga and the smiles induced by the antics of the goats.

-Messneger photo by Joe Sutter
Erika Earp snuggles a little goat as the yoga session gets started.