When Mallika Chopra was 9 years old, her parents taught her to meditate. In a new, illustrated children's book, Chopra seeks to pass along what has become her lifelong passion to a younger generation of readers.
"This book is sharing techniques that I've practiced and taught for a long time," said Chopra, 47, the mother of two daughters and a writer, speaker and entrepreneur. "For me, meditation was the greatest gift my parents gave me as a child."
The book was written for children from 8 to 12 years old, said Chopra, but she has heard from parents and teachers who have found it helpful as well. The book was published in August by Running Press Kids.
"I'm so humbled, the response has been unbelievable," said Chopra, the daughter of author and health advocate Deepak Chopra.
In writing the book, Chopra said, she tried to make the exercises simple, easy to perform, and short, with most taking just one to two minutes. The book includes different breathing/meditation techniques, as well as simple yoga poses and methods to increase mindfulness. The techniques are intended to help children reduce their stress and anxiety, and have more joy and balance in their lives.
"My goal was to empower kids directly to explore these kinds of techniques," said Chopra.
To help her focus on her target audience, before she started writing, she talked to her two daughters, now ages 16 and 14, as well as her nephew, to ask what they would want to see in the book.
Chopra said she has always wanted to write a children's book (she has written three books for adults) and she jumped at the chance when a publisher approached her with the idea for this project. The publisher also arranged for an illustrator to work with Chopra, and she is pleased with the end result.
"The artist made this a really joyful and warm and engaging book," she said.
While she is happy that parents, teachers and school librarians are embracing the book and its concepts, she cautioned against compelling children to practice the techniques described in the book.
"I don't want anyone forcing kids to do this, it will backfire and create more stress and anxiety," she said. "Let kids figure this out and discover it on their own."
The best way for parents to encourage children to try the meditation and yoga techniques is to lead by example, and let their children see them performing the different exercises, she said.
Chopra said she defines meditation as quieting your mind, and mindfulness as being aware of your thoughts, your body and the environment around you. The book includes a number of different breathing exercises designed to help children relieve stress and become more peaceful, both during the day and at bedtime.
The book includes simple yoga poses, such as downward-facing dog, butterfly and happy baby. Also included are suggestions for taking slow and quiet walks to increase mindfulness.
Research has shown that such techniques can help children and adults sleep better, and improve their focus in school and at work. Chopra said she believes the timing for the book is good, because people are becoming more open and accepting of the techniques and practices she advocates.
Through the book, she said, "I hope (children) find tools to make their days happier, healthier, less stressful and to connect with one another more."
Chopra, who lives with her family in Santa Monica, said she is already planning her next book, which will be a companion to "Just Breathe," which is tentatively titled "Just Feel." The next book will also be for 'tweens and focus on social and emotional learning.
The book is available on amazon.com, barnesandnoble.com and more. Visit www.mallikachopra.com for more information.