In Kidding Around Yoga we are moving and exercising all parts of our bodies: arms, back, legs, hips, mind, spirit, and all the way down to our little piggies with Toe-ga! It’s so important to work on balance and stability in every aspect of our lives as yogis. Could there be a better way to begin the practices of balance and stability than starting right at one of the sources of our physical balance? Nope, work those toes!
All of the kids I have worked with absolutely love the Toe-ga song and exercise. They are constantly asking if today’s class will have Toe-ga, and get wide-eyed and giddy when they see me unload my bag of tricks, revealing my big bowl and bag of colorful pom poms. Most know the rules and remember that we have specific time for games and songs set aside but some will still ask if we can begin right away with Toe-ga.
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Utilizing Toe-ga in my classes is such a pleasure for me because the kids really benefit from all parts of the game. Of all the games we play in KAY this one really gets kids excited to bring yoga into other realms of their lives. On a few occasions children have come in, taken off their shoes, run to me then spread and stretched their toes as wide as they can, showing me how they have practiced toe-ga at home. Of course at these moments, I am super excited about their toes and the progression they are making, but I am even more so excited that they take yoga off the mat and home to their families.
Great for building up stability and balance through the bottom of the feet (to be used physically with balancing poses, or mentally with, well any of the number of tough things kids these days encounter),Toe-ga also incorporates flexibility of the toes as they grip the heck out of those pom poms. Put these aspects together with the mental concentration on the rules; hands in Namaste behind our backs, alternating feet, the possibility of picking up only one color of pom poms, or working silently with a partner (I love encouraging the kids to come up with fun rules or twists we can add). You and the kids will all benefit from this amazing game.
For me, however, truly the best part of Toe-ga is ‘cleaning up’ after the game. I feel this way because my kids are finally remembering their pranayama, and Toe-ga is the tool that helps them! They remember some of the techniques we use during and after the secret garden, but for some reason, while playing Toe-ga and transitioning to blowing the pom poms up the mat or pom-pom basketball, it is an easier link in their mind to the word and practices of pranayama. I noticed this about a month ago and was overjoyed. Simple techniques for controlling the breath are so important for kids, and I love when they remember this on their own. I work with kids in a lot of different environments outside of yoga class and I love bringing pranayama into these places. It is so incredibly necessary for all of us to see and preach the benefits of pranayama, and while the kids are blowing and throwing pom poms into my bowl at the end of Toe-ga I always take advantage of this time to remind them all the good it really does for our bodies.
Thank you, Toe-ga, for all that you give us. And thank you especially for allocating extra time in class to work on pranayama!