Books in Review:
a monthly column on books by Emory authors
Yoga for Your Life
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
Margaret D. and Martin G. Pierce
Rudra Press, Portland, Ore.
Emory author makes yoga easy
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.
to the October 7, 1996 contents page