Different types of Yin Yoga

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claireylane
Posts: 13
Joined: Thu Sep 22, 2016 1:35 pm
Location: Sydney, Australia

Different types of Yin Yoga

Post by claireylane »

Hi Bernie,

I teach yin and have done for a few years. My yin teacher was taught directly by Paul Grilley.

I rarely go to any other classes or teachers because I am extremely fussy! However, I recently really felt the need to do this to complement my home practice.

So, I have been attending a class taught by an experienced teacher. Her background is Iyengar, and has subsequently trained in Yin with Sarah Powers.

From what I have observed in this class and others, the Sarah Powers method / philosophy is very different in many ways to the Paul Grilley method /philosophy (at least, as my teacher teaches it, anyway!).

My teacher focuses a lot on teaching functional yoga (alas, she has moved away!).

(Note: I have not trained with Sarah Powers.)

The classes I have been going to recently are not Yin as I know it or teach it.

For example:

- Many poses involve moving body parts (arms, legs) in time with the breath in a very flowing way (I was taught that stillness is a big factor)
- Poses are often held for only three breaths (I was taught that three mins or more is ideal - if appropriate, of course)
- Props are infrequently used, the implication being that props are for people who are less flexible etc
- Poses that I would consider more yang are often included eg, fish pose (without any props), side plank pose
- Poses are often introduced with the "full expression" of the pose as the goal Implying everyone should aim for this, and if you come often enough, you'll get it
- Some poses are introduced with "most of you won't be able to do this, so leave it out"
- A lot of the focus is on how a pose looks, rather than on how it feels. Eg, in fish pose, she adjusted my legs and feet so they made a fishtail shape, which was actually painful in my hips.

This feels in such opposition to everything I have learned - stillness; staying for longer (as appropriate); having a strong emphasis on function rather than form; listening to your own body's needs rather than copying the teacher or trying to go deeper / get better; inclusivity for all people and body types and abilities.

I am wondering - now that YY, as we know it, has been around for a while - if different schools of thought / methods / philosophies are emerging? Perhaps different lineages, depending on who the teacher has been influenced / taught by?

And if you think that teaching 3 breath holds, moving with the breath, doing more yang poses and calling them yin, etc - is actually appropriate?

I am trying to be open-minded, but having a definite internal dialogue with myself over this!

Thanks :)
claireylane
Posts: 13
Joined: Thu Sep 22, 2016 1:35 pm
Location: Sydney, Australia

Re: Different types of Yin Yoga

Post by claireylane »

PS I have read your post on Who Owns Yin Yoga, and other similar articles about the history, Paulie Zink etc. My question is more about the current situation rather than the historical one...
Bernie
Posts: 1220
Joined: Sat Sep 23, 2006 2:25 am
Location: Vancouver

Re: Different types of Yin Yoga

Post by Bernie »

Unfortunately, just because someone has studied with Sarah Powers or Paul Grilley, it does not mean that they will follow the teachings that they were offered. Sarah and Paul do not police their students to ensure they are teaching "properly". There is no Yin Yoga Police, and there is no one right way to teach Yin Yoga. However, that does not mean "anything goes". From your description of this teacher's offerings, it is certainly not Yin Yoga (PG) — that is, it is not in the style of Paul Grilley.

This is a hot topic in Facebook. Several groups have commented on the way many teachers are using, or in the writers' minds mis-using, the label Yin Yoga. They are upset that people are deceiving students by claiming to be offering Yin Yoga but then teaching something very different and not at all in keeping with the way Paul and Sarah teach. I can understand their angst, but we must remember, there is no one, correct or authorized way to teach yin yoga. Yin Yoga (PG), yes. If someone was claiming to be teaching Yin Yoga in the tradition of Paul Grilley but then gave a class such as you described, I think it would be fair game to call them out and say, "Paul Grilley would not teach Yin Yoga like you just did, so why are you claiming it is Yin Yoga (PG)?" But, if they are simply calling their offering yin yoga and you ask why, they could legitimately say, "It is yin compared to Ashtanga because it is slower" or "It is yin compare to Hot Yoga because it is cooler."

Feel free to have a discussion with this teacher and ask why she is offering her version of Yin Yoga so differently than what Sarah Powers taught, but at the end of the day, she is free to call whatever she teaches Yin Yoga. And you are free to not go to her classes. If she claims she is offering Yin Yoga as taught by Paul or Sarah, but she is not, then I think you have carte blanche to critique her. But before doing any of that, I would ask her students if they enjoy and get value from her classes. If they do, even if you don't enjoy those classes, then this teacher is reaching people with her yoga offering and that is great.

Cheers
Bernie
claireylane
Posts: 13
Joined: Thu Sep 22, 2016 1:35 pm
Location: Sydney, Australia

Re: Different types of Yin Yoga

Post by claireylane »

Thanks Bernie, this is an excellent response.

I completely agree with all of your points.

I guess that because I have never studied with SP, I did not know if or how similar / different the SP method was to the PG method. And so, was hesitant to discuss it with this teacher, until I had a little more understanding.

I think what you are saying is that the way I have described the class, it does not sound like either the true/original PG or SP method, right?
Bernie
Posts: 1220
Joined: Sat Sep 23, 2006 2:25 am
Location: Vancouver

Re: Different types of Yin Yoga

Post by Bernie »

Yes, from your description this teacher's classes are not in keeping with how either Paul or Sarah teach. In Yin Yoga PG, the postures are held 3~5 minutes, no muscular engagement, no movement (except getting into and out of the poses), no going to "ultimate edges". Now, Sarah does teach vinyasa and other yang hatha styles too, but her yin is as I just described. (Since you haven't studied with her, you may want to get her book or watch a video or too of hers. Checkout her website.) Plus their focus on a functional approach (especially Paul) negates the need to worry about aesthetics: what is important is the intention of the pose and what your experience is, not how it looks.

Cheers!
claireylane
Posts: 13
Joined: Thu Sep 22, 2016 1:35 pm
Location: Sydney, Australia

Re: Different types of Yin Yoga

Post by claireylane »

You have no idea how helpful your reply is, Bernie!

It's cleared up a lot of confusion in my head...

And yes, I will look into SP a little further too.

THANK YOU
goshinkansen
Posts: 4
Joined: Sun Oct 23, 2011 9:47 am

Re: Different types of Yin Yoga

Post by goshinkansen »

I’m a longtime student of Sarah Power’s. I’ve also studied with Paul. In fact, anyone going through Sarah’s full IYI program is required to study with Paul or someone teaching his method. Sarah may teach differently (the atmosphere of their classes are really different) but the foundation and approach to Yin is the same: find the edge, get still, stay awhile. Sarah is actually well known for holding poses for what I’ve heard many others complain is “too long.” So, no. Sarah’s approach to Yin is not what you described.

Sarah’s Level 1 training, which is as far as most people go with her, is called “Yin, Yang, and Mindfulness.” She teaches both Yin and Yang postures in this training. When she teaches workshops in person, they are almost always both yin and yang and described as such. I think this confuses people who are newer to yin. I’ve met people who think everything she teaches falls under the rubric of yin yoga, which is unfortunate. I find her to be really clear about what’s yin and what’s yang.
toaster
Posts: 32
Joined: Wed Nov 02, 2016 4:48 am
Location: Upstate New York

Re: Different types of Yin Yoga

Post by toaster »

To the OP Claire, I feel the same way as you about becoming "pickier" about yin! My (online) yin teacher also studied directly under Paul Grilley, and the type of yin I prefer is more along with what you described. Sometimes I do yin with YouTube videos, and I have to hunt to find practices with longer holds, classic yin postures, and less yang elements. As Bernie noted, no one out there is "policing" yin, so it's probably up to the individual practitioner to find teachers/practices who they click with.
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