Sharing the joy of children’s books

Kathy Beliveau

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Attention yogis! We recently caught up with Kathy Beliveau, author of The Yoga Game series who had some helpful hints for anyone thinking of encouraging their kids to take up yoga this year. Enjoy!

1. Welcome to Gobblefunked Kathy! First of all, can you tell us a bit about your background? What led you to write the first Yoga Game book in 2012?

Hello Gobblefunked. What a fabulous name! It shouts FUN! First off, thank you for your interest. I love what I do and often I can’t decide if I should call it work or play!

I live on Vancouver Island, on the west coast of Canada. I’m from a tiny town next to the sea and I feel very lucky to be so surrounded by nature. Nature, yoga and writing are some of my many passions. I teach yoga too and write for both children and adults and I am the author of The Yoga Game and The Yoga Game series of picture books.

I began yoga and writing at an early age. When my own kids came along, (I have a step-son and three daughters) my yoga practice became much more playful! Later, when I began teaching yoga, I often found myself encouraging teachers and parents wanting to introduce yoga to their kids to ‘make it a game!’ Somewhere along the way, I began thinking how valuable and fun it would be for people with or without any yoga experience to open a book and be instantly practicing yoga.

The original Yoga Game book did just that and when the invite to expand the book into a series came along, I enthusiastically accepted. The fact that yoga poses often imitate things we find in nature is, to me, an added bonus. There is a beautiful movement to reconnect children to the natural world. I think yoga helps us do this.

Being someone who delights in swimming in the sea and floating on the sea and sailing across the sea, beginning the series with the book The Yoga Game by the Sea felt very fitting.

2. Tell us about the creative process behind your work?

This question always makes me smile because my ‘creative process’ at least initially is sometimes confused with doing nothing. But actually I’m listening.

The best ideas come to me when I’m very quiet or when I’m out in nature and when they arrive it’s in one great flash and I have to get the ideas down on paper immediately, before they vanish. That’s the beginning. Once I have an idea that excites me, there’s a lovely flow! And then there’s the rewrite … upon rewrite … upon rewrite! I’m not afraid of rewrites and a good editor can take something from better to brilliant.

3. How do you work with Denise Holmes, the illustrator of the series?

It’s common for an author to have no contact with the illustrator, at least for a first book, and this was the case with my first book, The Yoga Game, and the first book in the series, The Yoga Game by the Sea. I passed all my comments and feedback along to my editor and this information was considered by the editor and then forwarded to the illustrator.

Since then, Denise Holmes and I have connected many times through email and Skype and have a lovely friendship. Recently we collaborated on an extensive Teacher’s Guide for The Yoga Game series, which we put up on our websites and our publisher’s website. When working on illustrations for the series however, we continue to respect the professional protocol and send all comments and feedback through our editors.

4. You’re clearly passionate about yoga and education, why do you think it’s important to get children practicing yoga?

Getting kids to practice yoga is important on so many levels. With a world of people who are increasingly experiencing stress and anxiety, having the ability (at any age) to recognise and care for our own needs and the needs of others is a powerful tool. We don’t need studies to show that when children are stressed or anxious, their ability to learn is deeply compromised. Yoga teaches us how to create calm, how to connect with ourselves and others and how to be more grounded and focused. And it’s fun!

The Yoga Game books

5. How do you think parents and teachers can best use a book like The Yoga Game to get kids involved?

I have heard from people all over the world that after reading and playing The Yoga Game with kids, the children very quickly start to take the lead. Kids are natural yogis, and if you let them, they will teach you. They will invent poses, add sound effects and lead the session or show you variations you’ve never dreamed of. And it’s all good. Children’s yoga is very playful (and sometimes noisy) and if they’re having fun, they will want to do it again and again. While I do ask children to be respectful (no bumping into neighbours) and to listen to their body (a pose should always be comfortable) I don’t worry too much about alignment, especially for younger children.

The Yoga Game Teacher’s Guide is full of useful ideas for parents and teachers, and can be found on my website.

The Yoga Game by the Sea

6. Your next book, The Yoga Game in the Garden is due out this year. How do you decide on a setting for a book?

I am so excited about this book. I practice yoga in my garden – with my cats and the neighbour’s dog (when he gets away) and with squirrels running around and even deer showing up now and again. The Yoga Game in the Garden felt like the most natural thing in the world … an obvious choice.

As obvious as it may seem, I think with the speed and busyness of everyday life it is easy to forget that the earth is our home, and how we care for the earth is how we care for ourselves. We protect what we love, but what we do not know, we cannot love. I once heard myself saying I’d love to take every child by the hand and lead them outside into nature and show them all the wonders and the magic there.

In many ways, I think yoga helps to do this. Yoga slows the whole world down. And the practice of Hatha yoga naturally lends itself to children because many yoga poses imitate things we find in nature. Children love to pretend they are a tree or an animal, and as they imitate the natural world around them, they connect with it and appreciate it on a deeper level.

The word yoga comes from Sanskrit and means to yoke, to unite, to bring together. It’s all about connection … to ourselves … to the earth … to each other. I love what I do because in my own little way, I am planting seeds, nurturing connections and helping children fall in love with this amazing planet we all share.

7. Who were some of your favourite authors as a child or is there any one author that has influenced your work?

I’ve always loved authors who write in rhyme! I love language that dances along like a song and I think children do too! ‘Twas the night before Christmas is a perfect example of this.Of course Dr Seuss was always a favourite and later I fell in love with the work of Bill Peet. My favourite stories are always the ones with warm fuzzies, the ones that touch your heart!

Of course Dr Seuss was always a favourite and later I fell in love with the work of Bill Peet. My favourite stories are always the ones with warm fuzzies, the ones that touch your heart!

8. What’s next for you? Are you working on something at the moment that you can tell us about?

Yes! The Yoga Game on Safari is well on its way and then two more titles for the series after that. Pretty exciting!

I actually have a number of polished manuscripts, (for children and adults) that I’m very fond of and I’m just now starting to find time to pull them out and decide what to do with them, so it all feels quite wonderful!

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Gobblefunked

Books, glorious books! That’s what Gobblefunked is all about: sharing some of our favourite books and hearing about some of yours! Postings by Anne and Linda.

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