Wild Things

Recent books offer yoga enlightenment from the animal kingdomdogs, elephants, and men.

Ever wonder where yoga really came from? Two new books provide two decisively different answers: elephants and dogs.

Babar's Yoga for Elephants (published last year by Harry N. Abrams, $16.95) is a sweet way to introduce anyone to the practice. The book is written by Babar, who demonstrates 15 asanas, starting with the Sun Salutation. Ever since woolly mammoths invented it, yoga has been quite popular in Babar's hometown of Celesteville. "It helps us all to relax and draw strength from our inner elephant," he writes. He gives step-by-step instructions for the poses and breathing practices that help bring peace, strength, and flexibility to him and all the pachyderms in Celesteville. The book is now complemented by the 2004 Babar's Yoga for Elephants Wall Calendar (Abrams, $12.95).

While Babar claims yoga for his lineage, Benny, Buster, and Cricket make their case in the new Doga: Yoga for Dogs (Chronicle, $14.95). Dogs' "tranquility of mind, ability to be in the moment, and contented outlook are widely considered to be the result of their long and devoted practice of doga," say authors Jennifer Brilliant (a New York yoga teacher) and William Berloni (an animal consultant). Benny, Buster, and Cricket have practiced for years and are delighted to present the major asanas, such as the pose by which their species really made its nameDownward Dog. They take care to explain how humans can adapt the poses for their own use, and how to practice with your dogi at home.

And just to show that great canines think alike, author Gerry Olin Greengrass has just trotted out her own Bow Wow Yoga: 10,000 Years of Posturing (J.P. Tarcher, $14.95), which gives detailed instructions and illustrations on how to assume (Heel!) and to hold (Stay!) each of the fundamental dog asanas. Greengrass, a Manhattan artist who was inspired by watching her Labrador, Cocoa, stretch, says Bow Wow Yoga shows dogs how yoga can benefit their minds, bodies, and spiritsas well as their owners.

So . . . no one has done a cat yoga book? Has no one clued in to the poses of the one and true master of yoga, the feline (a claim that my own cats, Max and Riley, remind me of daily)? Just compare: Downward-Facing Dog (self-explanatory) vs. Cat (no head bowing involved). The cats rest their case.

There are yoga instructions for the ages: prenatal, toddlers, kids, teens, seniors. And for the manly man, too! The publisher says that Real Men Do Yoga: 21 Star Athletes Reveal Their Secrets for Strength, Flexibility and Peak Performance, by John Capouya (Health Communications, $12.95), will satisfy "the male fascination with sports and admiration for athletes" by interviewing more than 20 macho pros who are also "enthusiastic yoga practitioners." These include football's Eddie George, pitcher Barry Zito (winner of the 2002 American League Cy Young Award), hockey goalie Sean Burke, and basketball's Kevin Garnett. There are photos of stars in poses, with the promise to conquer back pain, help sports performance, increase strength and flexibility, andof courseimprove sexual performance.

Again, from the publisher: "In a sea of yoga books aimed at women, Real Men Do Yoga is an easily accessible, non-New Agey guidebook that takes something mysterious to American men and offers a reassuringly effective and practical guide that they'll actually use." Except when the game is on.


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