When you’re trying to keep your yoga skills fresh, there is no shortage of workshops, Zoom classes, and yoga books you can try. But if you’re trying to learn a new skill–or polish up an older one–you may want to break out the crayons. Two new coloring books (yes, for grownups) promise to help you deepen your understanding of yoga–both the physical practice and the philosophy.
Adult coloring for stress relief
When adult coloring became a trend a few years ago, it was presented as a nostalgic way to relax and relieve stress. I jumped on the bandwagon and bought an elaborate mandala book and a box of colored pencils that contained every color in creation. I’ve always had an artistic bent and I thought it was a way to wake up my latent skills. The promise of calm was a bonus.
But trying to follow the intricate patterns and stay within the lines triggered a life-long perfectionism that I had no desire to re-awaken. For me, it was more tedious than relaxing.
Instead I bought a regular kids Tinker Bell coloring book and an 8-pack of Crayolas. I sprawled out on the living room floor and was immediately transported back to second grade–and an uncommon sense of calm.
How coloring can help you learn
As it turns out, the relaxing nature of coloring doesn’t just help your stress level; it can make your brain receptive to learning. Researchers found that participants who colored a mandala for 20 minutes were calmer and more content than participants who were asked to read a passage of text. But they also saw an increase in creativity, which allows people to approach complex problems from a number of different perspectives.
Coloring can also offer a playful and artful way to help your brain lock in new information. In education circles, there’s a concept called multisensory instruction. The idea is that when you’re trying to embed a new or complex concept, or remember detailed information, it may “stick” better if you engage more of your senses. Coloring counts. The texture of the paper, the waxy smell of crayons, the vivid colors register in different parts of your brain. Color in particular is effective in helping you learn and remember information.
Of course, no two people’s brains work the same; we all learn in different ways. For some people, having a hands-on experience may be less effective than reading about yoga. Coloring might be an especially helpful approach for people who are creative and respond to images or color. These new coloring books take advantage of the creative and cognitive benefits of coloring to help you take your yoga skills to the next level.
Color the Sutras
by Rebecca Polack
Based on the belief that “wisdom unfolds from play,” author, illustrator, and yoga teacher Rebecca Polak created a series of coloring books that translates the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali into images. There is a book for each of the four chapters: Book one covers the Samādhi Pāda, the chapter on meditation; book two is the Sādhana Pāda, the chapter on practice. This month, Polack released the Vibhūti Pāda, the chapter on special powers. The final chapter—on Liberation, the Kaivalya Pāda—is forthcoming.
For each of the 196 sutras, she has composed a page with the sutra in Sanskrit, as well as the English translation, in a hand-drawn font. The words are surrounded by images of animals, flowers, and plants in an intricate tapestry inspired by Madhubanī, a folk art form found in northern India. Polack presents this “purposeful coloring” as a departure from traditional ways to study, and calls it a transformational practice.
Yoga Anatomy in Color
by Jo Ann Staugaard-Jones
There are plenty of excellent anatomy books on the shelves–and most have elaborately detailed pictures to illustrate the parts of the body. But If you are spending time coloring in the muscle or tracing the line of a tendon to its attachment, you may remember the information more vividly.
The book contains more than 50 full asanas, as well as anatomical drawings of body systems–nerves, fascia, muscles, skeleton, digestion, and respiration. There are even pages that cover the chakras and the subtle body, as well as movement and planes of the body. At more than 200 pages, it’s as detailed as any yoga anatomy book. The difference is that you get to make it yours.
Get in touch with your inner child
If you, like me, need a super low-stress coloring option, try a yoga coloring book for kids. There are several on the market–most illustrating simple poses. While they may not help you learn the sutras or brush up on anatomy, lying on the floor with a fresh pack of crayons may re-awaken the carefree child in you.
Tamara Jeffries is a senior editor at Yoga Journal who loves both books and art.