It’s Saturday morning, and I’m headed to the rodeo. It’s been a while, but fortunately, I still know my way around a petting zoo.
“What animals do you see?” asks my friend – a new friend – Abby. She directs the question to me and my rodeo-going companions.
“A…pig?” one of them offers.
“That’s great!” says Abby. “And can you move like a pig?”
Normally I’d balk at the suggestion. But not at this rodeo. It is imaginary, after all.
“I can! I can move like a pig!” a three year-old boy with shiny blond hair yelps. He proceeds to show us how it’s done.
Imagination games like these are all part of a day’s work for Abby Nagler, and her business partner, An Dang. Together, the two are the co-owners of The Little Yoga House, a kid-centric yoga studio in Clarksville.
The two met three years ago, doing a Rainbow Kids Yoga teacher training in Houston.
“I got to know An, and she told me she had this whole vision for taking kids around the world on yoga trips,” says Nagler. “And right then I thought – um. I like you.”
she had this whole vision for taking kids around the world on yoga trips,” says Nagler.
The two had the idea to start a children’s yoga studio, and wasted no time launching their vision. The first iteration of The Little Yoga House came into being that same year, inside of a garage apartment behind Nagler’s house.
“We had no idea what we were doing,” laughs Dang.
“I mean, it was sweet – we had little camps and everything – but it was nothing like this,” says Nagler.
And what could be?
It’s enough to make you wish to be a third of your size, so you can enjoy it all properly.
At The Little Yoga House, there are whimsical paintings on the walls and ceilings, soft toys peeking out of bins, a kid-sized teepee. It’s enough to make you wish to be a third of your size, so you can enjoy it all properly.
As Austin’s first kids-only yoga school, it was important to Dang and Nagler to offer programs that didn’t shy away from the deeper aspects of yoga. That doesn’t just mean movement games (although those are fabulous), but breath work, massage, meditation, and even nutrition.
“Yoga is a whole lifestyle, so that’s how we structure our programs,” says Nagler. “We have a nutrition teacher that comes in and does cooking and juicing classes with kids. And we have this—” she picks up a small ball that expands to 10 times its size – “to show how breath works. We call it the breathing ball,” she giggles.
I notice names of Hindu deities playfully scrawled on the wall above hanging yoga mats: “Groovy Ganeshes,” “Peaceful Vishnus.” An explains they function as little team names for the various age groups that comes to The Little Yoga House, from toddlers to teenagers – but it’s also one more way to incorporate yoga’s roots into their space. And just below those mats? A window that peers out into the front yard, where a hot pink tire swing hangs from the tree, and chard sprouts up from a petite community garden.
“Yoga is a whole lifestyle, so that’s how we structure our programs,” says Nagler.
“Our teenagers work in the garden a lot actually,” says Dang. “And anyone that comes here can take home vegetables from it.” I cast a greedy eye over a fat kale bunch.
It’s time for Nagler to teach another class. The three year-old pig movement expert is holding his mom’s hand, and together, they walk out the door. In walk a few pint-sized yogis and yoginis from the parking lot, grinning like happy Buddha statues. One runs over and latches onto Nagler immediately, making it all but impossible for her to sign other students in. I give her one of those looks – one that says, “I know I don’t work here and all, but you want some help?”
She smiles at me, gives the little girl a hug, and welcomes her to class. This isn’t her first rodeo, after all.
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Culture & Lifestyle Columnist
Tolly Moseley is a freelance writer and journalist in Austin, TX.
With a focus on arts/culture and life, her work has appeared in Salon, Texas Parks & Wildlife Magazine, on NPR Austin, and more.
She is also the voice behind the popular blog Austin Eavesdropper, and one half of the aerial silks performance duo Vayu Aerials.
Photography: Chris Perez