On Sunday morning, straw blanketed the ground upon which 15 identical blue yoga mats lay in a circle at Hux Family Farm, waiting for the participants of goat yoga to claim their space. Despite the chilly weather, yogis of all ages and abilities joined us on the mat to practice some beginner’s yoga. The collective class intention: to take ourselves less seriously, with the help of our animal friends.
Goat yoga is becoming an increasingly popular attraction for yogis and goat-lovers alike, according to a report by CNN earlier this year, and it’s no surprise that the fad has reached Durham.
“The novelty of the goat yoga craze spreading across the U.S. is part of what draws people here, but the therapy and relaxation of our programs is what keeps people coming back, and what most people really enjoy,” Amanda Hux, owner of Hux Family Farm, wrote in an email.
The farm, located a short 20-minute drive from Duke, is known for its goat-centered mindfulness activities and all-natural products. In addition to Beginner’s Yoga, the farm offers public Slow Flow, Yin Yoga and Premium Yoga classes — each with goats — for participants ages seven and older. For those looking to foster a mindfulness practice, the farm also offers a range of meditation classes in one of their permanent goat fields. Hux Family Farm provides these same yoga and meditation classes for private events, which several on-campus student organizations have taken advantage of. In addition to these experiences, Hux Farm sells homemade souvenirs, including bars of sustainable goat milk soap and “I Heart Goats” T-shirts.
At the start of Sunday’s practice, Hux Farm employees released the animal yogis — 15 therapy-trained Nigerian Dwarf goats (each full-grown and weighing less than 65 pounds), one sheep and one very large white dog. As the instructor led us through seated forward folds and pigeon poses, the goats weaved in between the mats, sometimes pausing to chew on a dangling drawstring or flyaway hair or to take shelter under a downward-facing dog. The goats flitted from person to person, mat to mat, until they wore themselves out and succumbed to a restful sleep snuggled up in someone’s discarded coat.
Because a lapful of sleeping goat can make it difficult to execute a perfect bridge pose, the hour-long practice was relaxed, informal and much more focused on spending quality time with therapy animals than actually engaging in a serious yoga practice. For Amanda Hux, it is that time spent with animals that really matters. In an email, Hux stressed the role her goats have played in helping quell her own anxiety.
“I started meditating with our goats and it was so calming we decided others might enjoy it too,” she wrote. “The yoga came after a few friends pointed out that other farms were doing farm yoga … We thought we could incorporate relaxing yoga classes along with cuddle therapy from the goats.”
Cuddle therapy extends beyond the meditation or yoga class itself. Every ticket for Hux Family Farm’s goat yoga includes roughly 30 minutes of photo and play time with the goats after practice ends. Instructors and staff mediate playtime, guiding goats to attendees’ empty laps and sharing each animal’s unique story. The farm staff also sell treats to feed the goats and encourage participants to bring the goats snacks from home.
For those simply interested in quality time with Hux Farm goats, the family offers Farm Animal Play Time each Sunday for an afternoon.
Of Farm Animal Play Time, Hux wrote: “There’s nothing like having a goat snuggle into your lap, or take a nap on you. They are so calming, and relaxing. We get constant feedback on [how] good people feel when they leave.”
Whether goat enthusiast or yogi — or some degree of both — Hux Family Farm offers a unique opportunity to relax with therapy animals in a natural, authentic, warm setting. When the end-of-semester stress hits, it’s nice to know there are trained therapy goats just down the road waiting to brighten the day.