Susanna Stratford, based in Seattle, is the author of the award winning yoga children’s book: “Mama Yoga and the Story of Namaste” aimed at children ages four to nine. The book was the USA book news 2014 winner in the category “Body, Mind, Spirit”. We invite you to learn more about Stratford and her book in this interview:
SYN: Who is Susanna Stratford?
Stratford: I was an elementary teacher turned mom turned children’s yoga teacher turned author and publisher. I write action yoga adventure stories with a lot of heart. I’ve been practicing yoga for over 20 years. I wish I had started in fourth grade when I began to notice my body. I wish all kids to feel confident, strong and beautiful in the body that they have.
SYN: What role does yoga play in my life?
Stratford: From a practical standpoint, I sleep well when I do yoga! I identify as a yogini when I’m flexible in my views and when I try something that challenges me. Yoga grounds me. I teach yoga to children which grows my joy and patience and then I bring that (and the funny stories) home. When I’m in the poses, I’m in the poses! Adults generally don’t like to make the noise in garudasana, so I don’t do that out loud anymore, but, I sure do it in my head!
SYN: What motivated me to write a children’s book focusing on yoga?
Stratford: In most of my classes the lesson unfolds through story. In fact, if I don’t tell a story, I’ve got some really dissatisfied yogis! Because I was telling the same story 17 times a week, I got the chance to perfect them, one by one. I started writing the stories down. It was a writer’s dream come true! I got instant feedback when verbalizing the story. I could see on their faces the suspense, the courage, the joy, and the confusion. I had to change things around when I saw the furrowed eyebrows. Sometimes a child would interrupt the flow to ask a question, and that was great information for me. But, I really knew I had it dialed in when a kid was in a full pose, waiting, head turned so I can see mostly only one eye, neck straining, ears perked. The kids wanted the answers, and they only got it when they moved through the adventure with me. Now, I can’t imagine writing a story that doesn’t have accompanying yoga poses.
SYN: What makes Mama Yoga and the Story of Namaste unique?
Stratford: If I saw a bunch of yoga books on the shelf at the bookstore, and I had $200, I would probably buy them all! However, if I could only by one, I would chose mine because it’s so gorgeously illustrated (by Alex Langenstein, a local Seattle animator). The characters are like real kids – compelling, silly, and thoughtful. I love how ‘namaste’ is explained actually through the yoga poses. The book is fun, but not childish so older kids enjoy it, too. But, best of all, the photographs of my 26 beautiful yogi friends in the resource section in the back makes this book the winner for me.
SYN: What has been the feedback from children and their parents?
Stratford: I’ve been told that a few yoga teachers have read parts of the book to their adult classes at the end. That’s totally exciting to me! One mom said that the book is her daughter’s “go to” every Saturday morning for her own yoga practice. There’s also a review of the book on You Tube by some Canadian sisters (little girls) that is very endearing. The feedback from kids is that they like the movement and the parents love the message.
SYN: How was the experience of writing the book?
Stratford: I call the year of writing and publishing the book the best year of my life. I considered going the traditional route of trying to get published, but quickly talked myself out of it. I thought this kind of book was a little too different for publishers at the time, and I didn’t want to wait years for the industry to catch up to the idea. So, I hitched up my big girl yoga pants and did it myself. I didn’t want to give up creative license, which authors sometimes have to do when working with an illustrator they don’t know. It was also important to me to have photographs in the resource section and not illustrations, and I wanted to use my yoga students instead of strangers. They are the cutest kids! They showed up at the photo studio and really shined. I was planning on using about 12 of the children, but they all did such a happy job, I included them all. Originally, I didn’t know how to make a book, but every step of the way was a blessing. I couldn’t have done it without my awesome and encouraging illustrator, Alex, who I found on Craigslist!
SYN: Anything else you’d like to share with our readers?
Stratford: I’m excited to add that there is a copy of the book in Canada, England, El Salvador, Equador, Indonesia, Australia, New Zealand, India, and Russia. I’d love to have copies in libraries all over the world. Right now I’m working on a series of chapter books for younger, advanced readers (grades 2-4) and am interested in working with a publisher this time. I think they are ready now!
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