John Toner: Combining Yoga, Nature, and Caprine Companions

4 Min Read


Stretching beyond the confines of conventional fitness, I embarked on an unconventional yoga journey alongside a herd of goats at Castlescreen Farm in Downpatrick. Formerly a traditional farm, this family-owned haven embraced a unique initiative, infusing yoga sessions with the presence of these curious and playful creatures.

Encounters with the “Billy and Nanny” Herd

Upon arrival, I was greeted by a chorus of bleats as a flock of goats made their way into the yoga studio. Their inquisitive nature led them to sniff and surround me, a testament to their friendly and interactive demeanor. Instructor Jackie Gibson, co-proprietor of the farm with Damien Tumelty, swiftly guided us through warm-up exercises, elevating the ambiance with gentle stretching and vocalizations.

Discovering the “Goat Yoga Experience”

As I transitioned into various yoga poses, I found myself encircled by the goats. Their playful clambering over my body presented a unique and somewhat ticklish challenge. Despite their playful nature, they were remarkably attentive to my personal space and comfort level.

The goat yoga experience, beyond its inherent humor, proved to be a surprisingly relaxing and uplifting activity. According to Jackie Gibson, the goats’ cheerful presence played a pivotal role in reducing stress and fostering a sense of well-being.

Expanding Horizons through Animal Therapy

Castlescreen Farm has expanded its offerings beyond goat yoga, embracing donkey therapy workshops. This expansion reflects the farm’s commitment to exploring the therapeutic potential of animal interactions.

Collaborations with charities and support groups have enabled the farm to provide a sanctuary for individuals facing mental health challenges. Jackie Gibson emphasizes the positive impact of goat yoga on adopted children, foster children, and teenagers struggling with mental health issues.

Embracing a Holistic Approach

The farm’s focus has evolved toward a more holistic perspective, seamlessly blending its agricultural roots with its therapeutic offerings. While continuing to produce organic meat, including Dexter beef, lamb, and pork, the farm has expanded its mission to promote physical, mental, and emotional well-being.

The incorporation of donkey therapy, with the presence of miniature donkeys on site, further underscores this commitment to integrating animal companionship and nature-based experiences into a comprehensive approach to wellness.

Personal Reflections: A Journey of Lightness and Joy

As a first-time yoga participant, I was pleasantly surprised by the profound sense of relaxation and contentment I experienced after this unique session. The combination of poses, breathing exercises, and the sheer absurdity of the goat interactions created an invigorating and euphoric atmosphere.


The goat yoga experience at Castlescreen Farm is a testament to the transformative power of animal companionship and the benefits it can bring to our physical, mental, and emotional well-being. The farm’s commitment to inclusivity and its dedication to exploring innovative therapeutic approaches make it a true pioneer in the realm of holistic wellness.

Author’s Bio

John Toner is a freelance writer with a passion for exploring the interplay between nature, wellness, and human experiences. His work has appeared in various publications, including Health & Fitness, EcoTraveler, and The Mindful Wanderer.

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