To stretch or not to stretch…that is the question.
My wife, Joyce and I were talking about travel this morning and my mind flashed on an experience I had many years ago when I was waiting for a ride after my arrival at the airport in San Francisco. I was standing out at the curb with my bags wondering what was holding up my friend (no cell phones back then). But it was a beautiful day (the kind of thing that happens a lot in California), so I didn’t mind waiting. At first I was just chillin’, hangin’ loose and people-watching. But my body was having a different experience; some definite tightness had developed over the 5+ hour flight out from Boston.
So as I waited, I did what came naturally to me at that time. I inhaled my arms up and did a lazy Half-Moon side-to-side stretch. Boy, did that feel good. I did a second round and then noticed that my hamstrings were calling for some TLC. Now I was really getting into it, eyes closed, ujjayi breathing, completely losing myself in the moment. I was in the midst of a delicious forward bend when my friend pulled up to the curb. I “came to” and stood up as he stepped out of the car leaving it running for our quick-hug-throw-the-bags-in-the-car-get-in-the-car transition. After our initial hello he looked at me curiously and somewhat sheepishly and asked if I was okay. I said “yeah, why?” He replied, “Well you were all kind of all bent over when I pulled up.”
I was as startled at my own naivete as I was at his; I had been completely oblivious that my little stretching break would have been noticed and thought odd. It was the mid 80’s and I was on my first real vacation since becoming a resident in a yoga community where the culture was such that you could stretch during a meeting (everyone was sitting on the floor) and no one thought anything of it. Due to my unbridled enthusiasm, whenever I left the community, my friends and family received a crash course in yoga philosophy, holistic health, and “conscious communications”, some of key elements of the lifestyle at the Kripalu Yoga Ashram (now the Kripalu Center), where I lived from 1982 -1995. I’m sure I must have been pretty obnoxious and arrogant with my newfound “wisdom”.
The concern of my friend who picked me up at the airport that day, upon seeing me do something that had become second nature to me, provided a bit of a revelation about how unusual it was at that time for people in the general population to use stress-reduction or tension release activities. These days, it’s more common, but not commonplace. Self-consciousness holds some people back. Then there’s the resistance many of us feel to trying something new and unfamiliar. Add to that the effects of our fast-paced culture and its encouragement of a heady lifestyle and the result is that we all bear some degree of disconnection between body and mind. I am grateful to have found yoga (or perhaps it found me) early in my life such that it is second nature to me to stretch and that simply stretching brings my mind back into my body where I have the opportunity for integration and a sense of wholeness.
Although we each have a unique story, it is some sense of disconnection and its attendant suffering which likely led us to the yoga mat. The practice of yoga is where we can learn to transport ourselves across what is sometimes mysterious terrain, using the sensations produced during stretching to bridge the separation that causes all human suffering. We all have the possibility of sharing the benefits of a little stretching here and there with others we encounter in life. And for those of us who are teachers, we have the amazing opportunity of creating community wherein stretching is not only normal and understood, but brings contentment and peace into common, everyday moments of our lives.
Your great Gentle Series tapes have become very precious at the deepest level of my being. They are helping so greatly on restoring the comfort and vitality of my body…The honesty and integrity of the practice you inspire is magnificent, and I pray you will continue for many more years.
Renuka Paula Heitzner
Rudy, I will hear your voice in my head for many times to come… gentle slow, deliberate, provoking, accepting. I appreciated all of your candidness and insight.
I appreciate all your candidness…
Rudy, You are a teddy bear. Thank you for emboldening me with your gentle and steady encouragement. And your humor helped me on days I was so tired. Thank you for giving, sharing yourself, and being real.
Thank you for giving…
Rudy, You are very special person. Your humbleness blew me away! Vieliu, vieleu daak for sharing your knowledge, experience, and passion for yoga with me. Your quotes and person will always stay with me.
Will always stay with me…
You said, “Just love them.” I have many things to thank you for, but most of all I’m grateful for your loving us. “The love alone will teach!” It did! You are an honest, funny, and amazing teacher. Thank you.
Rudy, Thank you for your kindness, your abiding presence, your humor, your generosity, and your superior teaching. And for reaching out — it made all the difference for me.
It made all the difference…
Rudy is masterful, patient, organized, wonderful.
Rudy is the best Yoga teacher I’ve ever had. It was a perfect combination of learning, relaxation, spiritual atmosphere, humor and support.
Rudy is a professional yoga teacher. He has tremendous gift of building relationships to each of us in the workshop. There’s a wonderful aura during each session, a calming and accepting air.
Rudy has a great delivery—calm intentional, clear- and is non judgmental and funny too! He offered many useful modifications and slow and gentle entries into poses that I will incorporate into my beginners Kripalu yoga classes.
Lisa Friedman Reich
Wonderful class/workshop. Practice was a beautiful moving meditation.
I was most impressed by Rudy Peirce’s style of teaching. His directions were clear. His primary concern seemed to be imparting a safe, non-injurious approach. I liked very much his simplicity and humility. He was not presenting himself as a star with products for sale.
I woke up this morning and told my husband your class last night made me feel like I came home! Thank you so much.
Denyse Le Fever
Rudy is so open and personable, allowing each person to feel listened to and understood.
Domina Matthews Page, Therapist
Thanks so much, Rudy. Working with you got me hooked on yoga and meditation and I’m finally fitting both into my life on a regular basis. (Although Rudy is younger than me, I want to grow up to be like him.)
I am so happy to have your CD’s…
I just did yoga tonight with the first one.
It was heaven!
I just finished practicing with Gentle III, and it was AWESOME –absolutely wonderful! I felt very resistant to practice tonight, so I figured I could practice the first 20-minute segment without too much fatigue…Well, from there I ended up practicing the entire cd, including the meditation segment!
Experiencing your Gentle Yoga CDs is quite the ongoing adventure …. like a whole delicious universe of new yoga experiences. I am working my way through slowly and savouring them deeply. A whole fresh universe of practice and support. Thank you for your beautiful work.
As a yoga teacher myself, I love each of the CD’s in this series. Not only have they brought ease into my personal practice, each one reminds me of warm-ups and postures that my students love as well. Rudy’s yoga classes are a respite indeed!
Vandita Kate Marchesiello, Director Kripalu Yoga Teachers Association
What a great week of Dynamic Gentle Yoga teacher training.
Lee Goodhew Romm
Many thanks, Rudy, for a great and informative weekend. My students were very receptive last week to your new approaches to gentle yoga.
Brenda Cowell, RYT
You inspired my teaching and I thank you so much.
Your generous gifts — as both a devoted teacher, and as a love-focused human being — will continue to resonate deeply within me. Echoing the hopes of many at Yoga for Life, I happily look forward to your return.
Thanks for your amazing training. I have gained so much from it and I have already begun to incorporate some ‘gentle yoga’ practices into my practice. The journey continues…Truly grateful to you.
Our Dynamic Gentle Yoga teacher training with Rudy Peirce was amazing! I enjoyed and greatly benefited from your teacher training. I am very inspired. Thank you for sharing your knowledge with us.
Andrea Lake Meharg
Taking your spring weekend workshop truly changed my life! Thanks so much, working with you got me hooked on meditation, and I’m finally fitting it into my self-care routine.