I Am the Tree of Life introduces Jewish children to the practice of yoga, “An ancient physical, emotional and spiritual practice originating in the Hindu tradition,” by connecting the postures to stories and characters from the Torah. The book follows a basic format. On one page, readers are instructed in simple, easy-to-follow steps on how to move into a basic yoga pose and how to breathe properly while engaging in the movement. On the opposite page, children can read about how that shape is connected to Jewish tradition.
The book begins with a basic balance — tree pose — which the author connects to the Torah, the Tree of Life. The author lists the simple steps needed for how to stand and breathe while in the posture. On the opposing page, Copeland describes the Tree of Life and its importance in Judaism. She repeats this with other yoga poses comparing them to Jewish symbols and characters; for example, boat pose with Noah’s ark, camel pose with the camel that drank from Rebekah’s water pitcher, and dancer pose with Miriam, the dancer. I Am the Tree of Life ends with a peace pose and the Jewish concept of Shalom — peace — as well as a beautiful explanation of how “[y]our yoga practice can help lead you to a path of shalom.” Copeland then invites readers to reflect on the experience of combining yoga and Torah. She explains how movement has always been part of Jewish practice and how Jews often share ideas and traditions with other cultures.
This book helps young readers absorb Torah into their bodies and become part of traditional Jewish stories. The text is supported by Andre Ceolin’s depictions of two children, a boy and a girl, demonstrating the yoga poses. Ceolin creates dramatic images based on Biblical stories and characters which inspire the practice of yoga.
I Am the Tree of Life is an excellent resource for religious school teachers who wish to deepen and vary their lessons on the Torah, as well as for families. The book may inspire students to find other stories, shapes, and characters in the Bible that they can also create with their bodies. Youngsters may be inspired to try the ancient practice of yoga.