Books in Review:
a monthly column on books by Emory authors

Yoga for Your Life
Margaret D. and Martin G. Pierce
Rudra Press, Portland, Ore.

Emory author makes yoga easy

How would you like to learn a relatively easy, very low-cost method to enhance your physical, mental and even spiritual welfare? How would you like to have a system of exercise that you can carry through all the stages of your life without needing high-tech equipment? And wouldn't it be nice to have a relaxing exercise technique that you can practice just about anywhere--from a desk
or airline seat to your favorite room at home?

If this prospect interests you, take a look at a new book, Yoga for Your Life by Margaret and Martin Pierce.

The Pierces have produced an excellent guide for yoga practice well-adapted to contemporary life. Martin Pierce, a yoga instructor at Emory since 1983 in the Health and Physical Education Department, and his wife Margaret studied yoga under the acclaimed Indian teacher T.K.V.

Desikachar. The Pierces now run a yoga center in the Virginia Highland area, offering classes in yoga exercise, breathing, meditation and the philosophy and psychology of yoga.

Yoga for Your Life is a practice manual for breathing and movement for everybody. The beautifully, as well as helpfully, illustrated book can be used by young or old, by those who desire a more intense workout as well as those who seek moderate exercise. Parts of the yoga program can also be valuable for elderly persons to amplify good breathing, improve muscle tone and foster coordination and balance.

The Pierces take the reader/practitioner from a brief explanation of yoga through simple movement-breathing exercises to more complicated ones. One also learns useful principles and techniques for healthful inhalation and exhalation. The individual exercises are placed in sequences that turn yoga into a kind of tai chi movement. A key aspect of all the motions focuses on relaxation in the midst of exercise. Attention to and coordination of breathing becomes essential to the mood and actual practice of relaxed yoga. This system opposes exercise theories based on the "no pain, no gain" philosophy so common in America today. If you are hurting in this form of yoga, you are most likely moving beyond your present capacity and need to back off until you are ready for the next steps.

The exercises are adapted to many needs and moods. There are movements for working one's back, for relaxing eyes and neck, for waking or going to sleep, even for joining sound to movement. The Pierces have succeeded in shaping a modern interpretation of an ancient tradition. Toward the end of the book, they present yoga as a way to deeper meditation with preparatory exercises and others for the transition back into one's day. The volume does not stress mediation, but it provides a brief introduction to it. The combination of better breathing and movement forms a natural accompaniment to meditation, which puts one in contact with inner resources and spiritual possibilities.

Of course, the best way to learn yoga would be to work directly with the Pierces. But short of that, this book is truly a user-friendly manual, unlike many of those we encounter with computers. Even a quick paging through this book will convince you that it was crafted for practice, even for beginners.

As a practitioner of some of the Pierce yoga moves for a number of years, I can attest to their value for both physical well-being and mental-emotion peacefulness. To do yoga or tai chi is a way of taking charge of your own health maintenance rather than passively depending on pills and other quick-fix nostrums to preserve body-mind ecology. If you can summon up the motivation to try this method (and it can be fun), Yoga for Your Life may be the best $20-investment you will make in long-term health and vitality.

Eugene C. Bianchi is professor of religion.
Return to the October 7, 1996 contents page