Review by Nancy Alder
When YogaDork asked me to review “Once Upon a Pose: A Guide to Yoga Adventure Stories for Children” by Donna Freeman I of course said “yes.” Despite the fact that I teach yoga to adults, I was intrigued about how an instructional yoga book for children would be laid out and how the material would be presented. Ironically, just after receiving my copy I was asked to teach to two different kindergarten classes. So not only did I learn tons while reading it, Freeman’s book actually came in quite handy!
Donna Freeman presents yoga to children in the form of collections of asanas that can be used to make up “adventure stories.” She offers literature, music and even language cue suggestions to keep the children involved in the tales and active in the poses. This strategy is brilliant as students in a group tend to get distracted easily when doing simple, non-connected asanas. By suggesting students work their bodies through a narrative, Freeman provides a structure for the teacher to keep even young children engaged in a yoga practice. Her directions are very thorough; she includes full sequences for each tale and also has a lengthy section on how to teach the individual asanas to children. She offers suggestions for children of all ages, as some narratives would not work well for younger children or older children.
What I enjoyed most about Freeman’s approach is that she does not “dumb down” the yoga instructions. The introduction to this book has a very comprehensive discussion of yoga philosophy, the Yoga Sutras and the various branches of yoga. She covers why yoga is beneficial for all types of children and her evidence is very persuasive. The approaches to teaching asanas are clear and useful for yoga teachers that teach adults as well. Freeman offers the reader a chance to take yoga for children seriously, and yet never suggests that it should not be fun. I was left feeling hopeful that my own children would have some more structured yoga in their schools, and more knowledgeable about yoga myself.
For anyone teaching yoga to children this book is a must buy, and now. However, for adult teachers I think it also has some value because it shows ways to teach some of the traditional asanas that are more creative than we may have learned. Not all yoga students learn the same, and Freeman’s tips are useful whether your audience is kids or kids at heart. Finally, for parents who wish to share yoga with their children, this book is perfect! I tried some of the adventure stories with my fidgety two and they absolutely loved the playfulness and tales that went with them. They were neither bored nor annoyed; they were only happy.
Kudos to Donna Freeman for bridging the gap between playfulness and instruction! “Once Upon a Pose” is a great resource for yoga teachers and parents alike.
Read more about Donna Freeman at yogainmyschools.com
Nancy Alder is an esteemed writer, yogini, yoga teacher, and caring mom. Her contributing work can be found on YD and other sites such as elephant journal. Nancy is also co-founder of Namaste Book Club. Find her on twitter @yoga_mydrishti.