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The history of Yin yoga

If you are new into the world of Yin Yoga, her history might quite surprise you.

How it all started

Once upon a time, about a hundred years ago, in a little village in China, a fierce Kung Fu fighter killed an evil man and was sentenced to 8 years in prison. He was in solitary but through the barred window he could see a group of monkeys. He observed and studied the monkeys and based on their physical, mental and energetic characteristics created an entire Kung Fu system. This system has 5 different styles, based on the different monkey personality types and forms of movement : the tall monkey, the stone monkey, the lost monkey, the wooden monkey and the drunken monkey.

After being released from prison, a son of a prominent family that runned a bodyguard service, a great swordsmaster and Chi kung master studied 10 years with him. Afterwards he combined the ‘Monkey Kung Fu’ with two other styles and called it Tai Shing Pek Kwar. He moved to Hong Kong and opened a Kung Fu school (producing many prominent Kung Fu fighters) together with an associate, that left him after a while but transmitted the art of Tai Shing Pek Kwar to his nephew, Cho Chat Ling, who moved to the USA in the late 70’s and met Paulie Zink and eventually trained him as his sole protégé. Paulie studied Taoist alchemy theory and added this philosophy to his training and in the early 1980’s in California, started teaching in his garage. Without really commercial intentions but just wanting to pass along his style that consisted of 2-3 hours of his so-called ‘Taoist (Yin/Yang) Yoga’, Chi Kung breathing and strength training, followed by 3 hours of Kung Fu. According to Paulie Zink : The complete art of Taoist Yoga encompasses :
* Yin poses of stillness for promoting growth, clearing energetic blockages, and enhancing circulation.

* Yang Poses for developing core strength and muscle tone, balance, and stamina.

* Flow : Including both yin and yang yoga posture, yin flow is more than just a sequence of postures. In yin flow the process of transition from pose to pose is as integral to the practice as the postures themselves. Yin yoga movement incorporates continuous, smooth and circular motion that promotes relaxed confidence, fluidity and grace in the body.
* Alchemy : Cultivating and harmonizing the five transforming elemental energies of Earth, Metal, Water, Wood, and Fire that are contained in the universal life field and animate distinct qualities in the body such lightness, fluidity, strength, springiness and calm.
* Chi Kung : These exercises involve very simple and gentle movements and breathing techniques. They are designed to increase vitality
and to restore harmony in the natural rhythms and functions of the body and its energetic field.

How Yin Yoga got its name

In 1979 another American guy, called Paul Grilley started his Yoga journey with the reading of the famous book : The autobiography of a yogi, by Paramahansa Yogananda. In this year he also started his studies of anatomy. A few years later he started teaching in Los Angeles and meanwhile discovered Paulie Zink with whom he started training and was very impressed by the effect of the long held Yin poses on his body. During his travels he got introduced to the teachings of Dr. Hiroshi Motoyama, a Japanese parapsychologist that created a philosophical system based on his experiences of meditation, exploring the mysterious connection of the physical movements in yoga and the movement of energy through the subtle body. Paul Grilley combines all these aspects and created a functional approach to yoga where we let go of the idea of a visual ‘perfect pose’ but explore our own range of motion.

Every body has a different bone structure and range of motion, so every pose must be adapted to that individual structure. It’s not about you getting into the pose, but the pose getting into you while respecting you body and following the concept :

1) Find your edge – feel the stretch in the targeted area.

2) Find stillness – don’t move except to go deeper or come out (pain)

3) Let time flow and gravity do its work – time allows you to sink deeper into the pose

4) Come out of the pose as slowly as possible.


Another first generation student of Paul Grilley and Sarah Powers, named Jo Phee was one of the first teachers to introduce Yin yoga in Asia. She was brought up solely with Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) by her Chinese Taoist parents and studied TCM at the academy of Singapore, then studied Yoga at the Bihar School of Yoga, specialized in Meridian Nidra. Combining all her knowledge she was the first Yin Yoga teacher to include TCM, Acupressure and Myofascial Release in her Yoga Teacher training program, creating the Yinspiration program : 5 Modules, focused on CM, Acupressure (AcuYin), Myofascial Release (MyoYin), YingYangFlow and QiGong.

Yin yoga is slowly getting more popular around the world, it's accessible for everyone because of the fact that while doing it, you'll learn to know your body and its range of motion and the pose will be adjusted to your individual needs.


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