In the realm of nature’s most-relaxing sounds, most people wouldn’t put “small herd of alpacas masticating grass a few feet from your head” very high on the list.
Probably it wouldn’t be on the list at all.
But the sound is remarkably relaxing. I know this because I was recently lying in the grass next to Lulu’s Barn on Westport Island during an outdoor yoga class, and as I was reveling in savasana and gazing up at the canopy of trees framing the sky overhead, I could hear alpacas nearby, pulling up grass and munching away contentedly.
The sound made me smile.
Those alpacas and I weren’t on the same grass in the same small paddock at the same time by accident. We were both there for a Yoga with the Alpacas class, which takes place on Saturday mornings all summer.
Yoga instructor Jen Moclair leads the hour-long class in a fenced-in area under trees where the alpaca (specifically Fleecy, Marty, Willy, and Gus) are free to roam among the yoga mats.
The concept was cooked up by Rose Bodmer, who owns Lulu’s Barn and the four alpacas. For years she’s invited locals and passersby to stop over, have coffee and baked goods, and spend time feeding treats to the animals. A few summers back she teamed up with a yoga instructor to start offering weekly yoga, too.
It’s an exceptional pairing.
In many ways, the class is like any other yoga class – warming up the spine with cat/cow, downward dogs to stretch the back of the legs, some sun salutations to warm the muscles and wake up the body.
But then there are the alpacas wandering about, alternately snacking and staring at the peculiar behavior of these visiting humans. In that way, this isn’t like a typical yoga class at all. And that, says Moclair, is what makes it so special and fun.
The alpacas attract people – some who might be trying yoga for the first time – and their good-natured presence makes for a welcoming and sometimes hilarious experience.
“Bring your mat. But also bring your own sense of humor,” Moclair says. When it comes to animals, you never know what to expect. But you might look up from your high plank position to find a curious alpaca stretching its long neck to get a better view of you.
“I look around during class and I see people smiling and laughing,” Moclair says. “It’s a nice little way to disconnect from life in general and appreciate these adorable personable animals.”
Moclair makes this all-levels class feel immediately welcoming, too. She leads with a lively and good-humored presence, noting straight away that attendees are welcome to challenge themselves and take breaks as needed. And if you decide to sit on your mat and feed snacks to the alpacas instead, that’s also a-OK.
“Whether it’s someone who’s never practiced before or someone who’s been practicing for 20 years, they’re going to get something out of the experience,” she says.
It’s also a chance for people to try something new at a time when people’s routines have been so disrupted.
“I never would have guessed I’d be teaching yoga with alpacas. … I’m doing things I never thought I would, doing things differently,” Moclair says. “People are coming to alpaca yoga and goat yoga and other activities they wouldn’t normally be doing if they still had their normal busy routine. Who knows, someone putting down their mat for the first time might open a pathway to something else. Who wouldn’t benefit from that?”
That said, if you’re dreaming of nuzzling an alpaca for long spells and maybe falling asleep together under a tree, too bad – the alpacas ain’t having that. They’re skittish by nature and won’t come over seeking a scratch behind the ears.
What they will come over for are snacks. Rose Bodmer supplies plenty of treats during and after class, so attendees can feed the alpacas right out of the palms of their hands (and maybe sneak in a few pats on their fluffy fur).
Alpacas only have teeth on the bottom, so biting isn’t a concern. But as soon as the treats are gone, so are they. Still, it’s really neat to be close to them for the few moments they’ll allow it. And yes, alpacas do sometimes spit. But it hasn’t happened to a single attendee.
It did happen once, however, to Moclair. She got a nice spray from one alpaca who was impatiently waiting for treats. “I got hazed,” she jokes, adding that it rarely happens and it’s really not a big deal when it does.
Finally, as class nears its end and everyone settles into savasana, you’ll get to look up to the trees and sky and listen to the sound of alpacas nearby. They’ll probably be chewing.
And you might discover that you really love the sound of it.
Freelance writer Shannon Bryan lives in South Portland and is the founder of fitmaine.com, where she writes about the coolest ways to be active and get outdoors in Maine.
Yoga class is in session
Lulu’s Barn, 389 Main Road, Westport Island, 10:15-11:30 a.m. Saturdays, weather permitting. The 60-minute class is followed by a 15-minute alpaca “meet and greet.”
Cost is $20 and advanced registration is required. Private group events for six to 12 people are also an option.
Bring your own mat (a beach towel works, too), towel, and water bottle. A hat, bug spray, and camera are also recommended. There is no restroom on the farm (a public restroom is available at the nearby boat launch) and CDC guidelines are in place regarding social distancing, hand sanitizer (supplied), and wearing of masks when not on your mats.
For more information go to www.lulusbarn.com.