Unmasking False Claims Made by Paul Grilley

In an interview with Yoga Journal (June 2003, “Talking Shop with Paul Grilley” by Matthew Sloan), it was noted that “Paul Grilley practices and teaches yoga in the Taoist style, also known as Yin Yoga, as taught to him by the martial arts champion Paulie Zink.”

However, some of the remarks made by Paul Grilley during the interview warrant scrutiny. Grilley stated, “There’s nothing mystical about Yin yoga. Zink does the same yoga poses everyone else does. After a few months, I’d seen the whole repertoire.” Grilley continued to comment on Paulie Zink’s style, asserting, “It isn’t as though there’s another secret coming down the line five years from now,” implying that he had acquired the entirety of Paulie Zink’s yoga knowledge and ability.

At the time of the article’s publication, Paulie Zink primarily taught in the Los Angeles area, limiting exposure to the broader yoga community. While Paul Grilley may not have experienced the mystical dimensions of Master Zink’s Yin yoga, it is misleading to claim that there is nothing mystical about it. Furthermore, Grilley only learned a beginner-level fraction of Master Zink’s art, and he had not witnessed Master Zink’s complete and extensive repertoire.

Contrary to the statement that “Zink does the same yoga poses everyone else does,” it is essential to clarify that Paulie Zink’s approach to yoga involves a unique and comprehensive set of movements that extend beyond conventional yoga poses. His teachings encompass a distinctive blend of Taoist principles, martial arts, and esoteric practices, resulting in a repertoire that goes beyond the standard yoga postures. Zink’s methodology is characterized by its depth and intricacy, offering a specialized perspective that distinguishes his yoga style from conventional practices.

STUDENT WHO ATTENDED MASTER ZINK’S CLASSES WITH PAUL GRILLEY

Craig Balcom is one of Master Zink’s most senior yoga and kung fu students. Craig was studying with Paulie for the entire duration that Paul Grilley was attending classes. This interview was conducted in September 2014.

When did you begin to study with Paulie Zink?

I began studying with Master Zink early in 1987.

How regularly did you study with Paulie Zink?

We met once a week, sometimes twice, without fail. Classes generally started at 8 PM and ended well after midnight; sometimes into the dawn.

For how many years did you study with Paulie Zink?

I trained with Paulie for over 11 years.

Were you studying with Paulie Zink during the same period that Paul Grilley was attending Paulie Zink’s yoga classes?

I was attending Master Zink’s class [at his home] in Burbank, CA, when Paul Grilley joined.

Did you attend any of the same classes of Paulie Zink’s that Grilley attended?

I was often in the same class with Paul. Paul Came once a week.

Do you remember how many hours Paul Grilley attended these classes that you also attended?

Paul usually left the class with the other beginners at about 10 or 11 PM.

Do you remember approximately the total length of months or years that Paul Grilley attended Paulie Zink’s classes altogether?

Paul was there less than one year; 6 months as a regular then several months on and off.

Did you ever witness Paulie Zink demonstrating his entire repertoire of yoga postures and yoga movements to Paul Grilley?

At no time did Master Zink ever demonstrate more than beginner techniques to Paul.

Did you ever hear Paulie Zink claim that he had demonstrated his entire repertoire of yoga postures and yoga movements to Grilley?

Master Zink was always quite forthright that most students were only going to learn the basics for many years and only then if they demonstrated proper accomplishment and understanding of what they had been taught would they receive more advanced training. So, no.

Did Paulie Zink ever demonstrate his entire repertoire of yoga postures and movements to you?

Even after 11 years with Master Zink, there was much he had not shown me. 

Did you ever observe Grilley demonstrate a high degree of proficiency in the yoga practice he was learning from Paulie Zink?

Paul never progressed beyond the beginner.

Did you ever observe Paul Grilley demonstrate Paulie Zink’s entire repertoire of yoga postures and yoga movements?

At no time did Paul demonstrate anything more than the basic postures.

How would you evaluate your level of knowledge of the yoga and kung fu you learned from Paulie Zink compared to what you witnessed Paulie Zink teaching Paul Grilley?

Paul Grilley only scratched the surface of Master Zink’s system. I was taught advanced Kung Fu forms and techniques and esoteric principles and practices of yoga that were never shared with Grilley.

What is your opinion of media sources and Yin yoga teachers claiming that Paul Grilley and Sarah Powers are the founders or developers of the style of yoga that is now referred to as Yin yoga that Grilley learned from Paulie Zink?

In my opinion, Grilley seems to teach an elementary and pedantic version of what Master Zink taught him, a version that is hindered by poor understanding of basic concepts, not a simplified version but a simplistic version. Grilley’s limited yoga skills are a testament that he misunderstood and misapplied many fundamental concepts.

Is there anything else you would like to add?

It is often exasperating for me as a teacher of Master Zink’s system to have to correct and undo students’ misconceptions of what Yin yoga is. And it is exasperating to see Paul Grilley given credit for something he did not create and diminish Master Zink’s contribution to modern yoga.
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Learn about the origins of Yin yoga

Paul Grilley Bio at Kripalu Center for Health and Yoga