Yoga fans of the world avert thine eyes for I am not one of you. Haven’t anything against it, mind. But my primary and initial contact with the exercise (sport? lifestyle?) was in college with a 22-year-old instructor who told us that sleeping during class was fine. Like Pilates, yoga has always been a kind of mystery to me. Even more mysterious still is the plethora of yoga titles you will see out there for children. Everything from Babar’s Yoga for Elephants to Little Yoga: A Toddler’s First Book of Yoga. These books are out there and they are popular. So it was with supreme built-in skepticism that I saw The Kids’ Yoga Book of Feelings arrive on my desk. I had two problems right off the bat. The title contains the words “kids” and the word “yoga”, which sets of the preliminary alarum bells. But then you get to the word “feelings” and the warning signals suddenly start blaring out a concentrated series of percussion-like honks. Feelings and yoga? That can’t be a good idea. It can’t, but the book gets away with it. Eschewing the more sickly aspects of yoga-based feelings, Mary Humphrey has penned a really nice how-to book that instructs kids on various positions and the responses they engender. The mind/body connection is no longer as debatable as it once was, but aside from any of that I’m just grateful to have a book in my collection with clear-cut photographs, useful poses, and a text that will be snapped up and enjoyed by many a parent and child looking for exactly this.
“Yoga allows you to meet the you inside of you.” Oh so? Apparently. Author Mary Humphrey explains at the start of the book that yoga is a practice that has existed for more than five thousand years. There is no wrong yoga style, and the process can make you feel better and allow you to focus your mind. That said photographer Michael Frost captures five nicely multicultural kids as they reenact each pose. From the Lotus Blossom (good for feeling peaceful) to the Puppy Dog (happy and perky) to the Opossum at the end (satisfaction) each picture and accompanying text helps the reader learn it step by step. Accompanying animal drawings are by Janet Hamlin.
Truth be told, the yoga book I’m fondest of is probably Twist: Yoga Poems as penned by Janet S. Wong and inked by Julie Paschkis. That was the children’s book that introduced me to the best yoga pose of them all: The Lion. It’s a pose that really justifies children’s books of yoga better than any other position I can name. Here’s how it works: You sit on your heels, put your hands on your thighs, stick out your tongue, and roar. I’m glad I read Wong’s book before I read this one too because had I encountered it on my own and without any background I might have fallen under the false assumption that Humphrey was making up pseudo-yoga poses in a kid-friendly manner. Not the case. Yoga, it would seem, lends itself naturally to children’s books. And clearly photographer Michael Frost shares my thoughts on The Lion. After all, every single kid in the book is performing it on the back cover.
Speaking of Mr. Frost, he does a nice job. The Eyewitness trend of placing a photographed subject against a white background is beginning to get a little old. Soon it will seem as outdated as a 1960s psychedelic poster. Fortunately each shot here consists of the child posing on their yoga mat with a detailed illustration in the background of one color or another. The kids for their part seem to be having fun and their smiles aren’t the stuck, plastic grins of the reluctant child model. They age in ranges between what look to be 8-10, identifying their audience right off the bat.
Yeah, I like it fine. I’m no yoga guru so it’s entirely possible that there’s some huge gaping inaccuracy about the exercise that I have missed in my ignorance. No matter. It’s a fun book to read through and I can see it being checked out in droves by parents hoping to inculcate their own children into a yoga-friendly lifestyle. Whether or not you see that as a good or bad thing is entirely up to you.
On shelves now.
There is a certain strain of adult reader with whom I do not see eye to eye. They are the people who would prefer that any and all children’s books that discuss exercise be filled with caveats and detailed instructions so as to prevent the kids who try them from being hurt. Look, I’m all for kids not getting injured but surely you see how odd it is to insist that child be coached through every possible instruction, particularly when you’re dealing with a book of yoga, of all things. I see it as overprotective and excessive while others deem it necessary and prudent. This argument has been lobbed against books like Meghan McCarthy’s book Strong Man, but I’ve never understood it on a personal level. At any rate, you can see one example of this debate in the letters section of SLJ. Marshall Cavendish wasn’t fond of the official SLJ review of this title and the reviewer responded. Interesting reading, at the very least.