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Is it Yin Yoga or Daoist Yoga or ... ?

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Joined: 23 Sep 2006
Posts: 1129
Location: Vancouver

PostPosted: Sun Apr 20, 2008 6:06 am    Post subject: Is it Yin Yoga or Daoist Yoga or ... ? Reply with quote

Hi Everyone

I recently had an email asking me the following:


I have had Paulies set of DVDs for a while and have used them primarily in my own practice. I received a greater understanding of the transformation of energy thru the 5 elementsand the yin/yang of Taoist yoga. I come to a bit of a crossroads with my yin classas Id like to bring more of the Taoist type flows into it.but then the class is no longer yin --- in that we now start working with some upper body --- However, I guess it would still be fairly yin --- in that poses are still very gentle. I guess Im just checking for your opinion on whether I should change the name of my class to Taoist yoga rather than strictly yin (since our focus is the lower part of the body in yin). I do often add a simple sun salutation or a yang flow similar to the ones on Paul Grilles DVD to get the chi moving..so I suppose the gentle shoulder openers would be OK as well. I guess I just want to be true to the focus and intent of Yin yoga classes.


Here are my comments, but I would be interested to hear other views as well.

Firstly, "Yin" is only yin when there is a context. We can say that yin refers to the lower body, in contrast to yang which would be the upper body but, while that can be the case, it isn't the only reason for labelling "Yin Yoga" yin. The context we really are using most of the time is the type of tissues we are targeting in Yin Yoga, which are the deeper, less flexible connective tissues. Within this context, we can certainly do "Yin Yoga" on the upper body too...we can apply a lovely stress to the shoulder joint capsules and let it just marinate for 4 ~ 5 minutes, just as much as we can do this to the hips or spine.

The context could be active vs passive: a vigorous sun saluation would be yang compared to a mini-sun salutation or a cloud salutation, as depicted in YinSights. These are all movements, but some are less vigorous, and thus more yin-like than others. If you are teaching in a yoga studio that has mostly or only Asthanga or Bikrams classes, then almost any other style could be considered yin yoga.

Originally Paul called the style of yoga he taught, Daoist Yoga, because he had learned this from Paulie. Sarah was the one who coined the term Yin Yoga, as she was only transmitting the more passive poses (although, some times she did add a very demanding yang session as well.)

Secondly: I see no problem combining yin and yang poses in a class. I do that quite often. Personally I call them "Fusion" classes, but you may want to call them Daoist Yoga (Taoist Yoga) or Yin/Yang Yoga or some other name. When I do this, though, I don't keep switching back and forth. I may begin with 20 or 30 minutes of yin poses and the use a sun salutation sequence to seque to the yang portion of the class. This is a great time to add some of Paul's standing flows or Paulie's unique Daoist postures like the lizard or bear...

Finally: your point about being "true to the intent" is great...all you need to do is have clear in your mind what is the intention behind the class you are leading. If you intention is to work the joints in a safe way, do yin poses in the manner that Paul, Sarah and I have described. If your intention is to work all tissues, then do some yin and some yang poses thus targeting both the connective tissues and the muscular tissues.

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Joined: 16 Sep 2007
Posts: 1
Location: Ontario

PostPosted: Mon Apr 21, 2008 7:10 pm    Post subject: Is it yin yoga or Daoist or.... Reply with quote

Thanks Bernie,

I think I was on the right track in terms of incorporating some yin for the shoulders and elbows and wrists.

And I like the idea of having fusion or yin/yang class AND having the Yin only class. I definitely see a need for the primarily yin classes in our studio.....since everything else is yang. But, the yin/yang class would be another option in the studio's repetoire. Adding another flavour to working all the tissues. thank you for your help in clearing up my confusion.

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Joined: 23 Sep 2006
Posts: 1129
Location: Vancouver

PostPosted: Mon Apr 21, 2008 10:45 pm    Post subject: Yin for other areas Reply with quote

Hi Virginia

I often use yin poses for the wrists too. I have students, while in a pose like shoelace or square pose, hold their hands, palms up, then lower the fingertips to the floor, then "roll"over the hands until the palms are on the floor with the fingers pointing backwards. From here they can put as much or as little juice as they want into the pose. This helps to strengthen the ligaments in the front of the wrist and is great for folks with carpal tunnel type problems. (Paulie Z showed me this.)

The students can stay here for a minute or two and then reverse the hands so that the back of the hands are on the floor, but the fingers still pointing to the back of the room. I call this the prehistoric, gorilla yogi posture. It is great for releasing and strengthening the back of the wrists, especially if you do a lot of arm balances and downdogs.

In both of these variations, being yin poses, the student should be still. No moving the wrists: just let the stress soak in. They can vary the stress levels by leaning their bodies further forward or backwards or by bringing the hands further in (less stress) or moving them further away (more stress).

Of course this could be done in other postures too, like baby dragon.

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