Everything you need to know before you start!
Want to learn Yin Yoga? For teaching or for your personal practice? You have discovered and loved this practice and you would like to know more about the trainings? Find out everything there is to know about Yin Yoga before you sign up for training. Discover the summary ofthis teaching offered by Sebastian Pucelle & Murielle Burellier: this inspiring couple leads trainings that are very well known for their quality of teaching everywhere, and especially in France.
WHO ARE SEBASTIAN AND MURIELLE ?
They are the founders of the school of yoga With Yin Yoga . They have been teaching and specializing in Yin Yoga training since 2011. They have been interested in yoga since the 90’s and then specialized in Yin Yoga. Today, they teach internationally.
Sebastian and Murielle support their teaching with reliable references in modern science, as well as research and studies in the Taoist, Buddhist and yogic traditions. Involved in Yoga since the early 90’s and trained by the founders of Yin Yoga, Sebastian and Murielle continue to study with Paul and Suzee Grilleywho highly recommend their approach to teaching.
Discover the origins
Yin comes from the Taoist concept of Yin and Yang which are two opposite and complementary principles. Its origin comes from Taoism in China. In China, there is also yoga called Taoist yoga.
HOW DID TAOIST YOGA DEVELOP IN CHINA?
At the beginning of the 4th century, a Buddhist monk called Bodhidharmawho, according to legend, was an itinerant monk, came to China from India to share his knowledge. It has developed great schools of which the most famous is the Chan school which is Buddhist and teaches Chinese Buddhism (actually coming from India).
Bodhidharma is also a precursor of Chinese Kung Fu, the so-called Shaolin Kung Fu since he taught these monks of the Temples to defend themselves against invasions, against nature, against animals, and he would have thus created the Shaolin Kung Fu. Now, a form of asceticism of this Shaolin Kung Fu is called Taoist Yoga.
WHY GO BACK SO FAR IN THE CHRONOLOGY?
Because there is indeed a Taoist yoga, but it has its roots in India. Thus, the loop is closed: Yoga which originated in India also migrated to China through Bodhidharma.
It is a a hybrid yoga that bridges the gap between the Indian and Chinese civilizations. These are two very strong cultures that were already very advanced in esoteric research, and especially in the apprehension of the intangible, especially in the understanding of Prana or Chi (vital breath) . Taoist Yoga is a hybrid between these two systems. There are stretches like in Hindu yoga for example. But also movements, breathing, predefined sequences, standing, sitting, lying exercises, mantras and mediation. It is a very complete yoga.
Taoist Yoga developed in China and is based on the philosophy of Yin and Yang.
Taoist Yoga by definition means Yin and Yang since generally they are never separated. It is a heresy for Chinese people to hear about Yang without Yin. In the West, we make a separation on the dialectic level: we say Yin AND Yang, whereas in China we say Yin Yang. They are never separated since these forces may appear to be opposed when in fact they are complementary.
In this Taoist Yoga, the Yin part is rather a physical preparation of the musculo-tendinous body. This yin preparation comes on everything that is inside: fascias and tendons. But there is also a form of introspection: everything that is Yin is more withdrawn inside. This preparation prepares us for Yang: it is a much more flamboyant and energetic style with poses that are much more outward facing. These two approaches form what is called Taoist Yoga.
This gives a context to Yin Yoga, which is more modern in name but has its roots in a very ancient approach.
Yin Yoga has its roots in Taoist Yoga. However, it has was created in the 90s in the United States.
It all started with one man: Cho Chat Ling. He was based in Hong Kong and specialized in Monkey Kung Fu which is a form of Taoist Yoga. This man immigrated to the United States, like many Chinese, in the early 1970s and settled there. He himself was trained by his uncle since in China it is a system similar to India (the gurukula): the master-disciple relationship. On the other hand, what is particular in China is what is called lineages: Generally, one must be part of the family to receive an education.
Arrival in the United States
When he moved to the United States and decided to teach he decided to choose only one student: Paulie Zink. He alone received the traditional teachings of Cho Chat Ling for ten years by direct transmission. He in turn became an expert in Taoist Yoga and specialized in Monkey Kung Fu.
Paulie Zink competed in the Long Beach Martial Arts Championship and won several years in a row. This is how he became known to a key figure in Yin Yoga: Paul Grilley. In the 90’s, he practiced and taught Hot Yoga, which is practiced in a hot room, and which was fashionable. Paul Grilley found himself stunned by Paulie Zink‘s speed, movement in space and agility.
Paul Grilley wanted to know more about his dexterity and visited him. Paulie Zink at the time was teaching from her garage at the end of the day to small groups. Paul Grilley learned from Paulie Zink for a little less than a year and that was enough time for him to understand what was so important to develop flexibility and suppleness.
The discovery of Paul Grilley
He understood that in this Taoist Yoga training, there is a more Yin part where we “marine” in the poses, relaxing the muscle groups. When we relax the muscle groups, we can reach the connective tissues (which are mainly our ligaments, tendons, cartilage, synovial joint and fascias). Anything that is Yin will work more on the inside of the body. Paul Grilley realized that it is this part of the training that promotes and develops flexibility.
Paul Grilley has a master’s degree in anatomy and knows the body anatomically and mechanically very well. It has therefore began to develop in reference to his teacher Paulie Zink a Taoist Yoga that he called daoist yoga, but with a more yogic and anatomical angle since it was his focus at the time. He started to teach these poses that you hold for a long time in a relaxed way and he called it daoist yoga.
Until Sarah Powers. This woman was teaching Ashtanga at that time and was already more famous than Paul Grilley, even internationally. She loved Paul Grilley’s approach and realized that his yoga was very complementary to her Ashtanga practice. It is her who gave the name Yin Yoga and not Paul Grilley who in reference to his master had kept the name of Taoist yoga. However, he only taught the static, slow, introspective side of daoist yoga, which is why he accepted the name proposed by Sarah Powers.
Paul Grilley and Sarah Powers became friends and they each began to develop their own style and spread it around, along with Bernie Clark, another student of Paul Grilley.
THE CONCEPT OF SKELETAL VARIATION
It is important to understand its origin: it started with an anatomical approach called the functional approach . This is the work of Paul Grilley who spent two years really studying the anatomy in depth specifically for yoga. He mainly took away one thing: the so-called skeletal variations.
This is a section of anatomy that is known in the medical corpus: it is simply the fact that everyone is different at the skeletal level and each one is anatomically different. That is, the shape of the bones and the length of the bones in proportion and different from one person to another.
Why is this important in Yoga?
Since this principle goes against the so-called alignment rule This rule of alignment in yoga is trying to align a group or a class through a standard pose. That is to say, standards are set for each pose with the location of the feet and hands fixed, and with specific angles in particular.
However, the scientific knowledge of skeletal variations completely explodes the notion of alignment rules since it will be impossible to align everyone in the same way.
This has been a great controversy in the yoga world as the majority taught with the rules of alignment. This one omits that we are all unique in our skeleton and that some people can do things that are impossible for others. This is why some people will never be able to do the splits or lotus position.
THE CONCEPT OF PRESSURE POINTS
In his approach, there is no need to force anything. Skeletal variations teach us that there are compression points in our body. That is to say, when two bones touch each other, it prevents the amplification of the movement and thus the practice of Yoga, even intensive, will not have any influence on this state of affairs.
THE CONCEPT OF SKELETAL CALCIFICATION
The skeletal variation varies according to our geneticsbecause we inherit the skeleton of our parents. It then varies according to the exercise one does before the age of 20.
In fact, there are three major cycles of skeletal calcification in the human body and these are 7-year cycles: 0-7 years, 7-14 years and 14-21 years. Once we have the morphology of an adult (at 21), we can no longer influence our bones or change their size, which was possible when we were younger, especially in the first two cycles (between 0 and 7 and 7 and 14). Between the ages of 14 and 21, it becomes much more difficult.
According to Murielle and Sebastian, when you understand the concept of skeletal variation, you understand that there is no point in trying to fit certain people into a mold or into a standard yoga asana.
That’s how he became known through Paul Grilley since many people were against it. This really represented Paul Grilley’s crusade He traveled extensively, mainly in the United States and then abroad, to develop his anatomical knowledge and was well known for his DVDs on anatomy and skeletal variations.
Paul Grilley has a very pragmatic pragmatic and scientific approach of yoga. He also received an honorary doctorate for his research on fascia and the relationship between fascia and the Chinese meridian system.
There are several currents in Yin Yoga. It is a platform mainly for relaxation and observation. In addition to this, there is another work that we call energy work. It also has its introspective qualities, of slowing down, of letting go, of contemplation by nature.
There are two main currents that have developed which are :
- An energetic approach based on traditional Chinese medicineTCM, through the network of meridians developed by the Taoists.
- A second approach which is based on the Chakra system
Paul Grilley developed the functional anatomical approach through Yin Yoga. Sarah Powers, whom we have already mentioned, because of her studies in the field of psychology and Buddhism, has developed a more meditative approach. We can also mention Bernie Clark who developed a scientific current around anatomy. Biff Mithoefer’s is more shamanic and poetic.
WHY ARE THERE SO MANY DIFFERENT CURRENTS?
This is the will of Paul Grilley who decided not to protect his yoga by specific copyrights. Indeed, the Paul Grilley’s vision has always been to keep yoga free and open to all.
He didn’t want it to become just another style, just another product to sell. To achieve this, Paul Grilley bought the rights, created a copyright of Yin Yoga but locked it in a safe so that no one could access it. That is, no one can buy their rights and no one needs a certificate to teach it. Thus, this practice is and will remain open to all.
It is composed of only a few fundamental principles. But these principles are open, deep and universal. They are going to be a platform of exploration for a multitude of different currents. These principles are mostly :
- Muscle relaxation Withdraw from the muscles, relax all muscle groups.
- The length of time in the application: The stress on connective tissue takes time.
This is then developed by a letting goa release and an observation. The longer you stay in a pose and the more relaxed you are, the more you tend towards the Yin side of strength. The more movement there is and the faster it is, the more muscular contractions there are: the more one tends towards the Yang side of strength. That’s why it is not a fixed style but rather an approach to our practice. We can have a Yin approach in Ashtanga for example. These principles are important to understand because they are the basis of Yin Yoga. To come back to the body and to understand what happens when we do a Yin Yoga pose, we return to these two principles.
Muscle relaxation allowsaccess to the connective tissue. In fact, the joints between our muscles are mainly made of connective tissue. Connective tissues are cartilage, synovial joint capsule, tendon, ligaments and fascia. To access these, you must not be in motion.
Indeed, it is the muscular contraction that creates the movement: the muscle attaches to the bone with its tendon and by the contraction of the muscles the joint will move. However, when you don’t activate your muscles, when you don’t have muscle contractions, then you have direct access to the connective tissue.
Sebastian suggests that we do the test ourselves. We shake our hand, then we keep it very loose, we seize a finger and we pull it. We observe a small hollow that forms at the joint: we do Yin Yoga for the fingers: we stretch the capsule which is surrounded by ligaments, we stretch the tendon, we stretch the fascia. In short, we stretch the connective tissue. This is called passive traction: it means that there is no or very little resistance.
If we take the same hand, we shake our fingers again and this time we contract the extensor muscles of our forearm. If we pull our finger this time nothing happens: the hollow does not form and we do not have access to the connective tissue. It doesn’t have the same effect, it’s less pleasant.
What’s going on?
From the moment we contract our muscles, we close the joint. Conversely, when we relax our muscles, the joint remains open and in this case we can apply a passive traction. This is the reason why, anatomically, we want relax the muscle groups since the target in Yin Yoga is the connective tissue.
Sebastian again takes the anatomical angle to explain this second principle. We stay longer in the pose again for the connective tissues. Indeed, what differentiates our connective tissues (ligaments, tendons, capsule, cartilage, and fascias) from our muscles is mainly their degree of elasticity. This is much more expressed by the muscle fiber and less by the connective tissue.
When you want to stretch a muscle, you don’t have to stretch it for too long for there to be a reaction. This is due to the high elasticity of the muscle tissue. What produces elasticity is mainly vascularity: that is, the more blood there is in the tissue, the more elastic it is. This is why we stretch our muscles easily.
This is not the case for our connective tissue: we can stretch them but it takes time. Hence the principle of staying long in the pose. If we want to influence our tendons or ligaments, we will have to stay in the pose and the tissue will adapt to the “stress” applied slowly.
In the same way, when we stress our muscle, we will strengthen it. Either we will strengthen our endurance, or simply the strength of the muscle. It will be the same with the connective tissue: we will to strengthen its resistance and its adaptation to stress.
So Yin Yoga, physiologically, is a type of yoga that will develop your flexibility and suppleness than any other style of yoga. In addition, it will build the stress resilience of your connective tissue. This makes the joints much stronger and less prone to injury. For example, if we work on the ankles, we protect ourselves against possible bad twists and therefore possible injuries: the ankle will be able to absorb this stress.
Discover the Yin Yoga poses in our Special YIN YOGA Guide
Let us keep in mind that it is a hybrid yoga. It is a new form of yoga that has its roots in Taoist yoga, which was already hybrid at the time.
It is all the more hybrid, in our modern era, and according to Murielle and Sebastian of the new age since it will come to absorb all the currents. We will find a scientific and anatomical approach, we will find an energetic approach through Chinese medicine and the network of meridians and through the system of chakras, we will also find a philosophical Buddhist and yogic approach of course, and then Taoist.
This is where he will come to embrace all these different currents. This is the evolution of yoga according to Murielle and Sebastian. For them, the reason why yoga is so popular is that there are many schools that cater to different people according to their inclination of life, according to their philosophy of life.
1) FIND THE APPROPRIATE DEPTH FOR OUR BODY
The one to take the pose and find the appropriate depth for our body. This implies that there is no ideal pose in Yin Yoga. His postures are extremely simple everyone can do them. You don’t have to be an expert, you don’t have to be an athlete, and you don’t have to have a certain body type. Especially since in this practice, we use supports which are the meditation cushionthe yoga brick and the bolster ( yoga bolster ).
It frees us from standards and proposes us to find the ideal of our body. This notion is very important since it touches the message of Yoga which is to know ourselves, to answer the question “Who am I? We turn inward, listening to our body rather than listening to instructions from someone outside.
According to Sebastian, we all need guidance in the beginning, but we must be able to find your independence in relation to its practice. This will give us the the confidence and courage to follow our intuition and to develop a communication and relationship with our own body.
2) RESOLVE TO IMMOBILITY
One remains in the pose for a length of time, and this immobility immobility makes the practice an introspective work. This immobility can please or displease. When we develop a form of immobility, we become aware of our internal movements. Indeed, we are not never really still, we are always in motion. If we control ourselves not to move, we become aware of the more subtle movements within ourselves: dynamic movements, but also perhaps emotions and thoughts that run through us. This is what makes it introspective.
Namely, if we go back to the origin of the word “Asana”, we discover that this word literally means “sitting”, meaning “sitting posture”. In the Raja Yoga Asana does not mean a posture of movement but a still posture. Bhile it is a recent approach, it goes back to the foundations of what yoga was. It is to develop a foundation, and even an asceticism, since there is nothing more difficult than to control our movements.
According to Sebastian, this is what Patanjali when he describes the word Asana:
You have completed Asana when you are able to enter a stillness for a long time.
This length of time may vary depending on the individual.
3) STAY LONGER
Resolving to be still and staying longer in the pose will develop a form of contentment. Indeed, the movement creates a mental stimulation. As soon as there is movement, our mind will also move with the movement, whether it is a physical movement or an emotional movement. Now, when one remains longer in the pose in a motionless way that highlights our incessant mental movements. We really get into what yoga is all about.
4) RELEASE THE POSE WITH CARE AND ATTENTION
When you come out of the pose, you have to move slowly. First of all, because we don’t want to move in a hurry. But also for two main reasons:
- On the mechanical side Connective tissues need time to stretch. So it takes us about two minutes to influence our connective tissue. But we stay 5 minutes in the pose to develop this resilience. When the pose is released, our connective tissues will be destabilized That is to say, just as our muscles can be stretched and relaxed and respond instantly, connective tissue does not respond instantly. It will need some time to adjust to its original form.
- On the energetic level The fact of releasing with attention gives us the opportunity to go out of the body to touch the energetic body since there is an expansion of Prana. It is simply in the slowing down, in the observation and the relaxation that one can experience the subtle body and not in the movement. Moreover, in Ashtanga Yoga we can touch this from the moment we stop the practice and enter Shavasana, and thus return once again to immobility.
- “ Yin Yoga : the praise of slowness by Amélie Annoni
- “ A Yogi’s Guide to Chakra’s meditation” by Paul Grilley (he specializes in tantrism and chakras) He talks about Taoism and the tantric approach to yoga
- “Complete Guide to Yin Yoga by Bernie Clark (with a scientific approach to all its principles)
- “Your Body, Your Yoga” by Bernie Clark on the functional approach
- “Insight Yoga” by Sarah Powers: focused on the meridians
Listen to the episode on the Podcast
Watch the episode on YouTube