As I prepare the presentation of my latest book, Let’s Do Yoga, at the AFCC (Asian Festival of Children’s Content) 2014, I am reminded of how I came to write it. Writing about yoga for children was a brilliant idea suggested by my daughters, keen yoga practitioners themselves. The more I considered it, the more I got excited about it. And then came Layla, an artist fresh from a collaborative work with my jewellery-designer daughter. Layla’s new work was delightful, clean, linear and contemporary. And she was keen to illustrate for one of my books. Layla, also a yoga practitioner, was excited by the idea of illustrating a yoga book for children, so all that was left was for me to write the story.
As I began to write the story, I introduced to Titli, the narrator, two new friends, Karan and Seema, who are doing yoga. They start with a conventional routine, but soon Karan is distracted and Seema hears him roar. She looks to find him sitting in the lion pose, after which they embark on doing a number of animal poses. The journey for me was one of discovery – finding these animal poses and learning about them. I consulted books on yoga, observed people practicing yoga, spoke to practitioners and instructors to ensure the facts, and talked to people to understand what they loved about yoga. I came to learn that some poses have different names, depending on who’s teaching it; that there are many schools and philosophies of yoga; that yoga encompasses much more than just a physical routine.
The book is a celebration of the long tradition of yoga in India, which began even before Patanjali expounded it 500 years ago in the Yoga Sutra of the Yogatattva Upanishad. Of the numerous padas of yoga, that are the paths to attain a blissful state, a spiritual realization, super powers or liberation, I have chosen the simplest one: sadhana pada, the practice and discipline of yoga. This simple introduction of yoga to children at a young age, will prepare them for the fuller practice of yoga – which comprises living a clean life and practicing meditation – as they grow into adults.
At the book launch in Delhi. L-R: Priti Paul, Uni Vaid, Coonoor Kripalani, Tina Narang and Vesna Jacob
The choice of animal poses is made to engage children in a playful way, as they read and make the connection between humans and nature. Starting with the lotus and tree poses, and gradually moving to different animal poses, helps to understand the world around us, to understand nature and our place in it, and how we relate to nature. Yoga also helps children to nurture and retain the ancient and primal instincts that we are born with. Yoga asanas encourage us to use our limbs, squat and twist, to retain the flexibility that we have at birth. It is also an excellent way to make kids focus and improve their concentration, as well as to use up their excess energy and calm them down when necessary.
Readers’ responses have been most encouraging:
Neha: “We loved the book! Even more entertaining than the last because Omna and Aman were doing interpretive yoga thanks to all the lovely illustrations!”
Shonan: “What a unique and beautiful gift! …I love the format, design and language. I can’t thank you enough. ….Please tell …[Coonoor], she is a hero.”
A young reader with Let’s Do Yoga
Writing and creating picture books for children is one of the most rewarding occupations. I chose to create these books in Hindi, as I felt there was a need for beautiful Hindi books for pre-schoolers. It was gratifying to see how well my first initiatives were received. And then one day a parent stopped me at the school where they were being sold to say how wonderful the books were, but what about the non-Hindi speakers, she asked. Why did they have to miss out? That convinced me to go bilingual with the books, and so here I am, writing bilingual books for young ones.
16 May 2014