05/08/03
Yoga for Elephants
    by John Cech

If you've been through all the Babar books by Jean de Brunhoff and his son, Laurent, who has taken over from his father the pleasant task of continuing the adventures of Babar and his family, and if your back is a little stiff from the exertion, then the new Babar book, Yoga for Elephants, may be just right for you.

This long, horizontally shaped book is inspired, so the narrator (Babar) tells us, by the discovery, in a cave near Celesteville, of some ancient drawings that show elephants doing cobras and lotuses and other standard yoga poses. From this evidence Babar and his scientists have concluded that it was really elephants who invented this demanding but oh-so-relaxing practice for the body, mind, and spirit.

And then, in a series of double-page spreads, Babar takes his readers, young and old, through some of his favorite yoga exercises, which are sketched out in sequence, and are easy to duplicate on a carpet, nap, or yoga mat. All the basics are here -- Salutations to the Sun, The Plough, The Tortoise, The Triangle, The Boat, The Cobra. These are fun for kids to do, and surprizingly demanding for most of us adults the first few times through. And there are also instructions about breathing to go with these poses. Who would think that we need to learn how to breathe? But you really haven't had a good lung-full of air until you've taken some deep Oo - Jai -- ee breaths.

In the book, the practice of yoga spreads throughout Celesteville, and soon elephants are striking poses everywhere. And so Babar and Celeste take it to the rest of the world -- doing the "Proud Warrior" pose in front of the Eiffel Tower, the "Downward Facing Dog" by the glass triangle in the courtyard of the Louvre, the "Bridge" in front of the famous curved rock formation called the Half Dome, in Yosemite. In each one of these clever pictures, the elephants are echoing the natural or man-made forms in their yoga poses, and it makes you wish that you could do "Shab-as-im-a" along with them in Monument Valley.

If you have children in your life, and are looking for a quiet, contemplative, low-tech alternative to the hyperkinetic, equipment-based play that often provides them with their excercise these days, or if you simply can't pass up a good elephant book, even if it'll make you stretch -- really stretch! -- then Yoga for Elephants will be your cup of jasmine tea.

Copyright 2003 John Cech

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