History Of Yin Yoga
Paulie Zink, the founder of Yin Yoga, was born in 1954. His journey to yoga actually started in martial arts when he was 16 and studying Kung fu. He took up martial arts at the age of 16 and studied at a local Kung fu school. During college at California State University of Los Angeles, Zink met classmate Cho Chat Ling, a Kung-fu and Qigong master from Hong Kong. He chose Zink to become his protégé and instructed him in Zink’s home, teaching him Taoist yoga, Qigong, and Kung fu. Cho trained Zink for ten years free of charge. Zink began teaching yoga and Kung fu in the 70’s.
Yin yoga is not the style’s original name. Zink originally called his style of yoga Taoist yoga, but that conflicted with forms of Yin and Chi Kung also called Taoist yoga, so the name did not differentiate Zink’s style enough. Zink had a student named Paul Grilley in the 1980’s and grasped his teachings of yoga and some Kung fu. Grilley taught what he learned from Zink to his student Sarah Powers. Powers then taught it and entitled the style Yin Yoga. Zink eventually started using the name Yin yoga and founded The Yin Yoga Institute. Sometimes, he also calls it Yin and Yang yoga because he feels it is a more accurate description. Although Zink founded the style, Paul Grilley’s name is largely associated with it. Grilley also studied with Dr. Hiroshi Motoyama in Japan, who found ways to blend modern physical perspectives with ancient Eastern medicine.
Philosophy Of Yin Yoga
Yin yoga is based on the state of the physical body and the creation of new and healthy cells to replace old cells. Zink wants to give people a tool to promote healing and personal improvement. Yin yoga is supposed to be universal and can be adapted for most practitioners. Zink also encourages students to move in natural animal-like patterns. Zink specifically does not want to enforce a belief system. He does not require people training to teach Yin yoga to completely align themselves with his exact philosophy, but they do have be familiar with it.
Yin yoga is all about relativity as opposed to finiteness. Zink’s student Grilley puts Yin yoga terms in perspective, “Yin and yang are relative terms, not absolutes; any phenomenon can only be yin or yang by comparison with something else. We can’t point to the moon and say, “The moon is yin.” Compared to the sun, the moon is yin: It’s cooler and less bright. But compared to the Earth (at least from our perspective), the moon is yang: brighter, higher, and more mobile. In addition to being relative, a yin-yang comparison of any two objects depends on the trait being compared. For example, when considering location, the heart is yin compared to the breastbone because the heart is more hidden. But when considering substance, the heart is yang compared to the breastbone because the heart is softer, more mobile, more elastic.
The Practice Of Yin Yoga
Yin yoga is multi-faceted and actually contains several components:
- Yin yoga: still postures that promote grown, clear blockages, and increase circulation
- Yang yoga: More physical postures that help strengthen and tone as well as increase balance and stamina
- Taoist Flow yoga: This includes Yin and Yang yoga. The transition between postures is as important as the postures themselves. The movement is continuous and spherical.
- Taoist alchemy: This element entails reconciling the energy of the five elements used in Chinese medicine—Earth, Metal, Water, Wood, and Fire
- Chi Kung: This element involves light movement and breathwork to restore the body and improve vitality.
As far as anatomy and kinesiology, Yin yoga targets ligaments and tendons of the body, with the hope that a consistent practice will lengthen these tissues and increase range of motion. There are two variables that typically influence the level of intensity. The first is the length of time a pose is held. Static stretching by way of holding a pose for long periods of time lengthens the connective tissue. The goal is for tension of the muscle and connective tissue to occur, and then the muscle will, in turn, lengthen. Eventually the tension will reach the connective tissue, but for this to happen, it must be applied for several minutes. Basically, in order to stretch connective tissue, the muscles must relax. In many other styles of yoga, poses are held for a few breaths to about a minute. Typically, poses in Yin yoga are held for three to five minutes, but occasionally poses can be held for up to 20 minutes. Aside from the physical benefit, holding a pose improves patience.
Yin yoga can be an interesting concept for people to grasp because they think of connective tissue in terms of injuries. Most people don’t think of the idea of specifically stretching connective tissue, but Yin yoga does not seek to stretch every connective tissue in the body. It only desires to stretch the connective tissues that will not succumb to injury with correct practice.
The second variable that influences level of intensity is the temperature of the body and muscles. Tension spreads more quickly on cooler muscles, so Yin yoga is ideally practiced early in the day before muscle elasticity has been heightened. The effects of practicing at the end of the day might not be as beneficial to the muscles, but Yin yoga can be relaxing at the end of a stressful day
The poses, or asanas, in Yin yoga do not typically include standing or balance asanas that might be present in another yoga class. Instead, passive poses and stretches are commonplace. The muscles relax during the asanas to avoid muscle spasms. Most Yin yoga teachers only have about 35 poses in their classroom repertoire, but this number can vary depending on the teacher, and almost all poses have variations. Zink, himself, teaches over 100 poses. Yin yoga, especially for more meditative purposes, should draw from poses such as forward bends, hip openers, backbends, and twists.
By: Alex Zaglin