Paulie Zink Yin yoga is rooted in the ancient Daoist traditions of China.
Yin yoga is about promoting health and healing.
It’s about growing the body flexible; it’s about developing energetic awareness;
it’s about spiritually connecting with the ground of being.
But most of all, Yin yoga is about awakening to our primal nature and quickening our innate ability to move with fluidity, power, and grace.
(Dao, also spelled Tao, is pronounced “dow”)
Daoism is an ancient Chinese tradition that developed out of the antecedent tribal shamanism of the continent and is premised upon the concept of Dao. The Dao means the Way, or the Path, or the Supreme Reality. Ultimately it refers to both the universe and its mysterious source of being.
It is beyond definition. However, The Dao also denotes the way of nature and its informing energy. Being in harmony with the rhythm and flow of nature is the essence of Daoist attitude. The Daoist traditions are comprised of various schools of philosophy, health systems, alchemy, magic, and folk religion. There is no equivalent word for yoga in Chinese. What we think of as yoga is, in the Daoist disciplines, a facet of chi kung.
Chi means life force and kung means to work. There are two principal types of chi kung, one is used in medicine for promoting healing, vigor,
and longevity, and the other is used in martial arts for developing energetic power and physical toughness. Great masters of martial chi kung
can perform seemingly impossible feats of strength and imperviousness to injury.
The Yin Yoga Approach
Yin yoga is about growing ourselves back to our inherent state of suppleness and flexibility. When we do this, our circulation is improved and we can move more fluidly with ease and confidence. It’s also about learning to feel our primal power and reawakening the spontaneity and playfulness that we had when we were a child. Yin yoga is focused on the ability do postures that are based on the animals and the elements
in nature and to open up to our own unique form of self expression through our intuitive heart as we go through the postures and flowing movements. It’s learning to be an artist in the practice. This is achieved by awakening the inherent creative capacity of the body to move gracefully and efficiency. And it’s about holding the postures and relaxing into them for as long as you feel comfortable so you can grow your body flexible in a way that is the most advantageous for your health, instead of fighting against the body as it tightens up in a defensive response to being forced.
Your flexibility and your circulation and your energy flow come from growing your body supple the way you were as a child. We have the potential ability to remain supple throughout our whole lives. Yin yoga poses and transitions help restore us to our natural state to move with fluidity, power and grace.
Daoist alchemy is part of the art because it’s the phenomena of energetic properties that occur in nature. The elemental energies are contained within all of nature. In Chinese philosophy and medicine the concept of yin and yang refers to the polarities of a whole, the complementary opposites of dark and light, cold and hot, soft and hard, female and male. They are the two sides of back and front, in and out.
One cannot exist without the other. They are the pulsation of energy, of the life force that is in everything.
The five elemental energies of Earth, Metal, Water, Wood, and Fire represent the interaction of yin and yang in the life force as it is being expressed in various states in the natural world. The five energies are inseparable, too. Each element exists in relationship to all the other elements; and they are contained in all of life. The elements move in a cycle of transformation from one to the next. These transforming energies are the foundation of the art. By practicing postures and movements that are associated with specific elemental properties we begin to activate these particular qualities in our bodies and our energetic field, such as stillness, strength, fluidity, suppleness, and light footedness. Paulie doesn't separate the yin from the yang in his art. The yin becomes the yang and the yang becomes the yin. Each one keeps changing from one to the other and back again. Each animal embodies both yin and yang qualities. The postures are based on animals, plants, and the alchemical elements.
If we practice an animal posture, such as a frog for example, then we learn to embody the energetic qualities of that animal. A frog feels to be like a bag of water. A frog is very grounded. It can sit completely still, yet it can also be flowing and springy. Monkeys can be very earthy and at ease with gravity. But they are very fiery when they move because they can be really light on their feet and swing from branch to branch
climbing upward with great agility and speed.
The Difference Between Yin and Yang Postures
Yin postures are softer and cultivate stillness. They are based on developing inner calm and subtle energy in the body. Yang postures are dynamic and require more exertion. They emphasize developing muscle tone and balance. Optimally the yin and the yang should be balanced within an individual. If a person is too yin then they have poor muscle tone and they don’t have the strength to move and flow powerfully. If someone is too yang then they tend to be stiff and can’t move and flow with ease as we are meant to. Also, when someone has really hard and tight muscles
then their life force does not circulate as well either.
The Physical and Mental Benefits of Yin Yoga Practice
The emotions are connected to the elements. And the emotions can greatly influence our physical health. With Yin yoga poses we learn to recognize the different sensations and moods that each of the five energies express in the body. We develop the ability to access these individual states of the elements at will and to shift from one to another. This allows us to be much more responsive and adaptable to our environment and circumstances. It also helps us to harmonize these different energies in the body and the emotions. If we have too much or too little of a particular element it can cause a disturbance in our metabolic processes or emotional health.
So by practicing the alchemy of Yin yoga poses, by doing the postures and movements of each element, we can help to correct these imbalances and stimulate our healing response. This in turn can help to free up stuck emotions and to restore a richer spectrum of emotional experience and expression. We learn to quiet the obsessive thinking patterns that keep us distracted and to liberate ourselves from preconceptions and systems of thought that limit potential. It helps us to lose self consciousness and judgmental thinking about what we are suppose to be doing; and in this way we become more deeply present in the practice and more fully realized in the nature of what we truly are.
About the Name Yin Yoga
In his earlier years of teaching Paulie Zink didn’t think to brand his form of yoga. He just called his style Taoist yoga to let people know of its Chinese origins. However, Taoist yoga and Tao Yin are names that are also used for styles of chi kung that involve very gentle yoga, movement, and breathing exercises. Paulie’s art does includes some of the techniques practiced in these modalities; but his comprehensive system
also involves more advanced training.
Paul Grilley studied sporadically with Paulie for about a year in the late 1980’s and learned a basic beginner level of Paulie’s art and a portion of Yin yoga poses. In those days Paulie’s students had to prove their dedication by attending his 4-6 hour long weekly classes regularly for at least three years before he would divulge a broader spectrum of postures and the deeper dimensions of the art to them. Grilley went on to popularize what he learned from Paulie and incorporated other theories and philosophies into his teachings. Grilley’s student Sarah Powers began teaching it and changed the name to Yin yoga. The term Yin and Yang more accurately describes Paulie’s art. He never intended to have one aspect of his art extracted and isolated from its whole. Nonetheless, Paulie has adopted the name Yin yoga.
Yin also means the feminine or female. And Daoism honors the feminine principle in nature. The text of the Tao Te Ching is attributed to Lao Tzu, who is generally regarded as the founder of Daoist philosophy and thought to have lived in the sixth century BCE.
The title Tao Te Ching can be translated as: The Book of The Way and Its Power.
The valley spirit never dies,
She is called the mysterious feminine, the primal mother
Her secret passage is known as the enduring source of heaven and Earth
It seems hidden, yet is always present within you
Use it, it will never fail
Tao Te Ching : The Definitive Edition
Translation and Commentary by Jonathan Star
Jeremy P. Tarcher / Putnam pub. ©2001
Tao Te Ching: A New Translation
By Gia-Fu Feng and Jane English
Vintage Books-Random House pub. ©1972
Tao Te Ching: A New English Version
By Stephen Mitchell
Harper & Row pub. ©1988
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