winter · yoga

Snow-ga with Alpacas!


What we did: Snow Yoga at Brae Ridge Alpaca and Horse Farm

Now you can embrace the powerful benefits of traditional yoga, nature and animal therapy during the winter months.

Who went: Bloggers Sam and Kim, also Sarah, and friend of the blog, Rob

What it was: An hour of very windy yoga in the snow and brilliant sunshine, with our wonderful instructor Angie, and time spent after drinking hot chocolate and feeding the alpacas and learning lots about the animals.

Rob, Sam, and Kim and the aplacas


I said “yes” immediately when asked to “snow yoga”; when the morning rolled around and my alarm went off I was a little less chirped about it. However, I powered through the routine, and packed for alpacas) chiefly my particle mask against allergens, not virus particles) and rolled out to the farm.

First yoga I’ve been to in at least five years–I do Aikido, though not lately–and it was a blast!

The wind was very chill–the instructor, Angie, was calm about it. Sarah loaned me some woolen mitts (I needed them) and we were off into Warrior Pose with warm wooly mammals wandering amongst us.

The alpacas doubtless thought we were all mad, but they just mingled complacently among us, eating hay and giving is the occasional bleat (do alpacas bleat? It’s a weird noise.) Was great. The sunshine was fabulous and I’m glad I went. I missed being in a class.

Sam and Sarah and alpaca


I love alpacas, yoga, and sunny winter days but I confess I wasn’t sure about the combo. I’ve been to goat yoga before and enjoyed it but it wasn’t winter. It wasn’t snow-ga.

As it turned out the snow-ga part was just fine. We didn’t use our yoga mats. We did yoga in the actual snow. I thought the instructor, Angie, did a great job of bringing our attention to this very Canadian winter day and making it part of the class. Let the wind take the things that aren’t currently serving you and blow them all away! We moved more and more quickly than you might in a typical yoga class, but I enjoyed the flow of the movements. I easily stayed warm and felt like we got a good workout in.

I also loved spending time with the alpacas after the class. They had such distinctive personalities and their owners enjoyed telling us how each of the alpacas came to the farm. Some were recent rescues and they weren’t that comfortable yet with people. Others acted like we were best buddies forever. Feeding them does that.

There’s something about the alpacas wandering around during the class that makes it better for me. Partly, I’m less self-conscious. No one is looking at my form or the modifications I’m making when there are alpacas to look at. But also the alpacas make me feel like a child again. I’m moving my body in the snow with alpacas. What a great way to spend a winter day.


I did the alpaca snow-ga booking and it was super easy to do through the Brae Farm website. They were really organized and professional and offered us an opportunity to rebook from a previous date that was forecast to be very cold.

Despite my positive experience with the organizing part I must admit I was expecting something along the lines of a highly instagrammable petting zoo, with maybe an instructor running us through a few poses in the adjacent paddock.

Instead I was pleasantly surprised by both the alpacas and the yoga. Brae Ridge is a nice little hobby farm with a herd of adorable alpacas, who just kind of hung out and nibbled on feed and hay that the staff scattered amongst the participants. Alpacas aren’t much into being petted but were totally happy to hang out with us as if we were new to the herd and a little slow on the food uptake.

The yoga part was also surprisingly good. Nothing too formal or advanced; the instructor did a good job of mixing up standing movements from different modalities to keep us warm and active and connected with our surroundings. I’ve done a fair bit of yoga outside in warmer seasons and love the feeling of communion with nature, but I wasn’t sure how that would translate to a snowdrift on a windy day, but it was wonderful. It definitely helped to be well dressed for an hour plus we spent outside, but I found it as easy to feel connected to a cold blue sky and the earth under a thick blanket of snow as it is in the warm summer months. I might have been a tad less flexible in the cold but everything was fun and gentle and definitely enhanced by having curly little alpaca butts running around.

Kim and Sam feeding alpacas after snow-ga


When I arrived at Brae Ridge it was brilliantly sunny and wickedly windy. I thought for sure, this is going to suck. It took a while to get started but once we were into it I couldn’t help feel like I was being overtaken by joy. Angie the instructor made the most of really tough conditions, choosing lots of fluid simple movements to keep us warm, focused on the sun, and she encouraged us to interact with the animals as they moved all around us. At one point I was in forward fold, only to realize that my route to standing was blocked by an alpaca bum. This is what I mean by joy, and delight! Somehow my mood lifted what with all the sun and the fur, and when we had the chance to hand feed the animals and snuggle with the horses, I felt exactly like a kid. Robert reminded me to hold onto that joyful child like feeling

Collage of Alpacas

Sorry, Tracy. It was one more Yoga and…!

How about you? Do you love or hate outdoor yoga with animals?

fitness · weight loss

When it comes to weight loss, aim to be an alpaca not a unicorn

There are lots of alpacas…

There are lots of alpacas. Here’s a herd. Or is it a flock? They’re in Peru. Photo from Unsplash.

But unicorns are rare. (Not the kind of unicorn that Rachel Lark sings about at 18:40 on the Bawdy Storytelling show.) The kind of unicorns I’m talking about are weight loss unicorns. Weight loss unicorns are those rare, mythical people who lose weight and keep it off for an extended period of time.

Alpacas are more common. Alpacas are people who lose a small or moderate amount of weight and manage to sustain that weight loss.

Some alpacas also have wild haircuts

When we get into the debate about whether or not diets ever work and whether long term weight loss is even possible, part of what’s at issue is which standard we use. It turns out that almost no one loses a very large percent of their body weight and keeps it off forever. But quite a few people do lose some weight and keep it off.

Here’s Yoni Freedhoff writing about a study of people who lose weight, “It’s quite heartening to see that after 8 years, for 35% of the DSE control group, 3 1-hour group talks a year were sufficient to help fuel a sustained weight loss of 5 percent or more of their presenting weight, and for 17% of them, enough to fuel and sustain a greater than 10 percent loss. ”

In my older post about this stuff I wrote, “There are at least two different ways to measure long term weight loss success. We can focus on those who maintain a goal weight or on those who maintain a weight loss of just five or ten percent of their starting weight. By that more easygoing measure, I’m in, I’m a success story. Lots more people are in even if we don’t typically think of only losing 5-10 percent of your body weight, a weight loss success story. Call the people who meet standard 1, getting to goal and staying there, the unicorns. They are rare. Far more common are people who meet standard 2, exotic but not unfamiliar. Call them the weight loss alpacas. ”

Rethinking success is part of Freedhoff’s pitch too. He writes, “What I’m getting at is that I think what makes maintaining weight loss seem “almost impossible” are the goal posts society has generally set to measure success. No doubt, if the goal set is losing every last ounce of weight that some stupid chart says you’re supposed to lose then the descriptor “almost impossible” may well be fair. On the other hand, if the goal is to cultivate the healthiest life that you can honestly enjoy, subtotal losses, often with significant concomitant health improvements, are definitely within your reach. ”

I know it’s less sexy. Change the way you eat for the rest of your life, exercise regularly, and you can maintain a weight that by society’s standards still counts as fat! I can’t see that up on a poster somehow. And yet….it’s better news than many of us are led to think by the blanket talk of “weight loss is impossible”and “diets don’t work.”

So should we aim to be be an alpacas instead of unicorns?

Well, you’re more likely to succeed.

Gina Kolta writes in the New York Times, “Anecdotal reports by people who have succeeded in keeping weight off tend to have a common theme: constant vigilance, keeping close track of weight, controlling what food is eaten and how much (often by weighing and measuring food), exercising often, putting up with hunger and resisting cravings to the best of their ability. Those who maintain a modest weight loss often report less of a struggle than those trying to keep off large amounts of weight.”

There are also health benefits. See More in praise of moderate weight loss.

And me, I’m coming to understand this debate between those who think diets work and those who don’t as being partly about different things.


Goat yoga! No longer can you go to yoga to escape the kids

What did you do Wednesday night? Whatever it was I bet it wasn’t as much fun as goat yoga.

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Tracy blogged about goat yoga last week but she wasn’t keen to go. Yoga, yes. But goats, no. But one of my sons is home from college and really excited about the idea of yoga with goats. So off we went.

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What did we like? It’s a really pretty setting in a big open barn. There were camping tarps spread over the barn floor and goat food sprinkled around the room. The yoga was easy going and familiar. Baby goats and their moms wandered around the room. It was very introvert friendly. People were more focused on the goats than on talking to strangers. And if you aren’t good at yoga there was no need at all to feel self conscious. There were extra staff wandering around with paper towel to wipe up any goat mishaps.

Here are some of the goats before yoga, just chilling out.

What worked? We’re both casual yoga students and we liked the class a lot. I spent time wondering why goat yoga is a thing, why it works so well. I think it’s because it’s so playful and lighthearted. Adults need that, a chance to play. We were told to take breaks and pet the goats and take pictures with them. So people tended to do yoga for awhile and then stop and have fun with goats. There were people of all ages and fitness levels there and the room had a relaxed vibe.

Here’s my son Gavin and a goat.

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What was tricky? If you are new to yoga, it would have been hard to follow. The instructor worked with the crowd and stuck to familiar yoga poses and flow sequences. If you’ve taken a yoga class at all, this is stuff you would have seen before. The goats really do wander around and nibble on things. I had one nibbling on my sock while I was in child’s pose. Gavin had a goat nibble on his finger. And a goat chewed on a woman’s shoe in the row in front of us.

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Here’s my “I’m not giving this baby goat back” face!

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I'm keeping this goat! #goatyoga

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There was also an alpaca at the farm.

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#goatyoga #alpaca

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On the way out, we stopped to look at the tree chickens.

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Tree chickens?

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Where: Full Circle Ranch,  44632 Mapleton Line, Central Elgin, Ontario

When: Wednesday evenings 7 pm

What: Yoga with goats!