I recently had an email asking me the following:
I have had Paulie’s set of DVD’s 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 elements……and the yin/yang of Taoist yoga. I come to a bit of a “crossroads” with my yin class……as I’d 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 I’m 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 Grille’s 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.