April 28, 2021

Princeton-Based Children’s Book Author Encourages Young Readers With Yoga

YOGA SAVES THE DAY: Nitya Malik’s new children’s book, “Milton Finds His Way Home,” incorporates yoga poses into an adventure story.

By Anne Levin

Nitya Malik grew up in India, the country considered to be the home of yoga. But it wasn’t until she had moved to Minnesota to attend college,  and then pursue a career in finance and marketing, that yoga became her passion.

Now, following years of practicing and teaching yoga, Malik has added  “children’s book author” to her resume.  Milton Finds His Way Home is the title of a colorfully illustrated story that encourages young readers not only to read, but to get up and move. Malik has been a local resident since moving with her husband, a research fellow at Princeton University, a year ago.

Her own journey with yoga dates back to the day that she “stumbled upon” a yoga center in Minneapolis, she said. After trying a couple of sessions she felt an almost immediate sense of relief.

“About three classes in, I knew I wanted to be a yoga teacher,” she said. “I think it was the ability it gave me to get rid of stress and anxiety. I thought, gosh, if I could make an impact on people like this instructor is making on me, that would be so fulfilling.”

Nine months later, Malik had earned her certification and begun teaching. “In the process, I found my own yogi voice,” she said. “I’m not a super flexible person, but through the journey I found more people who were like me and intimidated by yoga – who thought you have to be able to do a handstand at day five.”

She decided to write the book soon after moving to Princeton. “I always had this idea in the back of my mind,” she said. “I was thinking I’d start teaching yoga when we moved here, but we came at the end of March, when the pandemic had started. I took a break from teaching. And the opportunity to do the book came along.”

The story concerns little Milton, a pig who gets lost in the woods. With the help of his new friend, Henrietta the hen, and some yoga poses, he finds his way out. The book comes with three step-by-step, illustrated yoga poses.

“I actually wrote the story over a day and a half almost five years ago,” Malik said. “I had been driving into work on a cold, blustery, Minnesota morning, and was listening to a program on the radio about science for girls. I started thinking, what if I tied yoga into this idea? At the time, my two little nieces loved doing yoga with me, and they inspired me.”

After considerable online research, Malik found Lithuanian illustrator Austeja Slavickaite Wojtczak. “I wanted something simple that I could execute and see through to the end,” she said. “I loved her style. It reflected my vision and we really connected.”

Fifty percent of proceeds from the book will go to Gilda’s Club Twin Cities, which is focused on families dealing with cancer. “This was never about making money,” Malik said. “I wanted to find a meaningful way to help people.”

Malik recently had the opportunity to read her book aloud at Princeton Playspace. “It was a lot of fun. I got to read to an excited mixed-age group of kids and parents, followed by a mini-yoga session,” she said. “One of the moms came up to me at the end, surprised that her daughter did all the yoga poses, and then some, with me. ‘She never does these at home, even when I put on a yoga video,’ she told me. It just made my day.”

Malik’s most important critics, her nieces, have given the book their seal of approval. “The older one is now 10, and she called and said, ‘I’m so proud of you,’ which meant so much to me,” Malik said. “They were an important part of the process.”