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Florida Studio Lets Clients Practice Yoga With Chickens

LULU GARCIA-NAVARRO, HOST:

Some people puzzle to relax, and others do yoga. In the Ybor City neighborhood of Tampa, some do chicken yoga.

(SOUNDBITE OF CHICKENS CLUCKING)

MCKENZIE FOX: People do goat yoga. I've seen cat yoga. I've seen dog yoga. Why not chickens? Throw them on in there. We have them on the streets.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: That's McKenzie Fox, director of lifestyle at Hotel Haya in Ybor City. The neighborhood has wild chickens roaming around.

FOX: They're quintessentially Ybor. You can't think of Ybor without thinking of the chickens.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: They're descendants of chickens brought there in the late 1800s by families who came to work in the cigar factories. McKenzie Fox - yeah, a fox talking about chickens; she's probably heard that before - was looking to do something different at the Hotel Haya. And that's where Dylan Breese comes into our story.

DYLAN BREESE: So they reached out knowing that I had a small rescue and wanted to see if I was interested in having some of my birds show up to their yoga sessions.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Breese owns Ybor misfits Microsanctuary, and it helps injured and abandoned animals. And it has a flock of rescued pet chickens - bigger than the scrappy, street chickens and some much fancier, with soft, tiny feathers that make them look as if they're clad in white fur - so cute. Most of the time, the rescue chickens are just relaxing in Breese's backyard.

BREESE: Pecking at the dirt, eating vegetables and fruit and feed and hanging out with each other, taking dust baths, you know, just living their normal bird lives.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Except for once a month, when it's chicken yoga time.

BREESE: They get some air conditioning. Some of them really like to be held because they were pets, and, you know, they were cared for at one point.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Unlike goat yoga, where goats kid around, balancing on people's backs, chicken yoga just has four or five birds strutting around the class while soft music plays.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON: And we'll send it all the way down. Inhale.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: And the chickens - they wear diapers - yep, little chicken nappies Breese found on Etsy. Now, do the chickens get noisy with the sun salutation? Nah, they're chill. But what's the best position for chicken yoga? Frank Nicholas, one of the owners of Union Three cycling and yoga studio, which runs the classes, says it is - wait for it - downward dog.

FRANK NICHOLAS: So it's a natural pathway, if you get lucky, for a chicken to kind of either walk through you or just kind of settle down underneath you, in which case, you may need to upward dog and stand up a little bit.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: And the worst yoga position for chicken yoga - anything upside down. You don't want to risk falling on Charlotte or scrambling her eggs. Charlotte is a crowd favorite. She's a Silkie. They're known for their fluffy, white feathers. She was abandoned in a parking lot. But now, says Dylan Breese, she's living her best life as a social media star.

BREESE: She's the one that everyone clamors to get a picture with.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: There's also Gracie Gray, a tiny chicken with a kind of big, bushy beard, and Camilla, a Polish crested chicken who looks like she has a big bouffant. Eventually, these gals will all go to new homes, a coop to call their own. But in the meantime, Breese says it's a win-win for both the rescue chickens and for Tampa's own street chickens.

BREESE: I want people in the community to embrace the fact that the chickens are here, to ask questions about them and to learn about our incredible neighborhood because of the chickens. So I'm happy to participate in anything that draws attention to this great neighborhood.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: That was Dylan Breese, owner of Ybor Misfits Microsanctuary. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.