This Moment is Your Life (and so is this one): a fun and easy guide to mindfulness, meditation and yoga by Mariam Gates. 241 p. Dial Books for Young Readers/ Penguin Random House, May 22, 2018. 9780399186622.
Happy book birthday tomorrow to This Moment is Your Life (and so is this one)! And not a moment too soon. Stress levels among school age children are quite high and seem to reach younger and younger students. We had a third grader get so worried about the state test that she threw up and every year we seem to see more incidents of anxiety and school avoidance.
While a small amount of stress can improve performance and learning. Too much is not healthy and definitely affects performance and learning. Educators are incorporating relaxation and mindfulness techniques into their professional toolboxes. This Moment is Your Life (and so is this one) would be a useful addition to any school or classroom library.
The book is attractively designed and the layout is user-friendly. It can be read chronologically or be browsed by section. The tone is calm and soothing. It's conversational and relatively easy to follow. There are some useful tips for incorporating mindfulness, meditation and yoga into a young person's life. I wonder if this will be available as an audiobook. This might be useful, especially for the exercises in mindfulness and meditation.
Each of the five chapters ends with a tool kit. These pages are framed by a colored border making the sections easy to find. Colorful spot art illustrates various concepts such as Mind-Full vs. Mindful. (p. 32) Art after page fifty-three was either marked TK or black & white sketches. I read an arc so I'm not certain whether they will remain sketches or will be full color art. The tool kit contains activities such as journaling, breathing techniques, visualizations and yoga poses.
The poses are broken down into bullet points that are pretty straightforward and easy to follow, if not terribly detailed. I do have some comments about Forward Lunge (or high lunge) on page seventy-five. Step five just states to "bring your right hand to the ground." The direction is not specific and the illustration shows the right hand on the ground on the outside of the right foot. Doing this is a bit awkward, but doable. I was always taught to put my right hand on the inside of my right foot. While there are some poses that call for placing the hand on the outside, these are called revolved poses and are slightly more difficult.
Another thing I found curious were a couple of the names. I know there are variations and I might be nit-picking, but the pose called Cat Tilt in the book is really two poses Cow Tilt and Cat Tilt - or Cat/ Cow. The pose in the book is called Cat Tilt but the illustration shows Cow Tilt.
Standing Half Moon gave me pause as well. I googled it and found one video that called the lateral stretch a Standing Half Moon One, but the both arms were shown over the head. The rest showed Standing Half Moon to be what I thought Half Moon was - a balancing pose on one leg and one arm, supporting a raised arm and a raised leg. This is a quibble though. I practice daily and asked each of my teachers what they called the pose pictured - six called it a side bend or a side stretch and only one called it a Standing Half Moon.
To be honest, Half Moon, one of my favorite poses, never struck me as looking like a half moon. The Standing Half Moon pose in the book looks like a crescent moon to me but one of my teachers said crescent is when you do a backbend in low lunge. It made for some interesting discussions this week.
Again - two quibbles in what is otherwise a balanced, accessible introduction to mindfulness, meditation and yoga - a practice I believe most people would benefit from but especially our over-scheduled, stressed out teens.
Backmatter includes resources - nineteen books were recommended along with five web site names and eight apps. Notes were marked to come. There was no index in the arc.
About the author: Mariam Gates has a master's degree in education from Harvard University and has been teaching children for more than twenty years. The founder of Kid Power Yoga, she now devotes her time to training adults and children in yoga and mindfulness. She is the author of the picture books Meditate with Me, Good Night Yoga and Good Morning Yoga. She lives with her husband, Rolf Gates, and their two children in Santa Cruz, California.
About the illustrator: Libby VanderPloeg is an illustrator and designer living in Greenpoint, Brooklyn. She grew up in Grand Haven, Michigan on the edge of the Great Lakes, and since then, she has lived in Grand Rapids, Chicago, New York and Stockholm. She's created book covers and editorial illustrations for The New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, and Design*Sponge, among others, and as well as a line of cards and prints that she sells via her Etsy shop and in stores.
I am looking forward to reading the finished book and sharing it with my students. I was asked to share some pictures of me doing some favorite poses from the book. I chose Downward-facing dog but it's not a favorite pose. I find that the poses I am most reluctant to do are the ones I need the most. Over the years of my practice, I have grown stronger and more flexible and don't mind Down-dog that much anymore. I also chose Warrior Two because if you are holding the pose correctly (and I should be bending my front knee a bit lower) and breathe slowly and deeply for five to ten breaths, you get a real workout of your arms and legs! And finally, I showed a deep side angle pose (brought to the ground with the twist, except my arms should be better aligned. ;-) I must say, asking to have my pictures taken in the poses was a bit uncomfortable. But moving outside one's comfort zone is good. And seeing the photos, helps me to make corrections next time.