Clarifying False Claims in the Bernie Clark Article Clarifying Yin Yoga

By Maria Zink

In this article, Bernie Clark explains: “Jason Crandell recently spoke about Yin yoga on a Yogaland Podcast where he was interviewed by Andrea Ferretti. While there were dozens of statements he made that I could spend time debating, I will pick out the top 5:

1.  Yin yoga is extreme! It comes from a Chinese martial arts master, Paulie Zink, and is meant to develop a high degree of flexibility in order to build a performance art (Monkey Kung fu).”  [Monkey Kung fu is a martial art, not a performance art.]

Bernie Clark says, “This is misleading. Paul Grilley, not Paulie Zink, developed yin yoga as a style of yoga.”

Bernie Clark is mistaken. The Paul Grilley Bio on Kripalu’s website says: “Paul Grilley has been teaching yoga since 1980 in the style of Taoist master Paulie Zink.” (see above photo)

Grilley originally taught Ashtanga yoga. He didn’t study with Paulie Zink until 1988. But after he studied with Paulie Zink he then taught Paulie’s Zink’s art, although only an incomplete version of it.

Bernie Clark article goes on to say: “To differentiate his offering from Paulie’s Taoist Yoga, Paul chose to use the name “yin yoga” to make sure people wouldn’t be expecting Paulie’s Taoist Yoga.”

However, the June 2003 Yoga Journal interview, Talking Shop with Paul Grilley, contradicts Clark’s assertion. Matthew Solan writes, “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.”

Solan asked Paul Grilley, “You didn’t call it Yin Yoga in the beginning, right?”

“No”, Grilley replied, “Like Paulie Zink, I called it Taoist Yoga. The term ‘Yin Yoga’ actually came from Sarah Powers, who was introducing yin poses in her classes. It just made sense to use the same language.”

Sarah Powers learned Paulie Zink’s Yin yoga from Grilley.

The Bernie Clark article asserts, “Paul did study with Paulie -but Paul never did Paulie’s martial arts practice.”

Grilley’s description of Master Zink’s classes tells a different story. He says, “Most of the poses were done with long holds, 10 to 15 minutes at a time. Then we would stand and perform about one hour of the yang yoga: warrior stances, martial movements, kicks, and spins.”

What Grilley is referring to as “yang yoga” is, in fact, Kung fu. Grilley learned part of a kung fu form from Master Zink called Aura Palm.

Bernie Clark article further asserts, “Eventually, Paul Grilley developed a separate yoga class focussed entirely on long-held, passive stretches complete with opening meditation and closing shavasana, counter poses, and explanations of the postures. Paulie’s offerings were never like this and still are not like this.”

As Grilley points out in the previous quote, Master Zink did teach “long-held, passive” poses. Master Zink also taught meditations, but these were reserved for his more dedicated students. Grilley did not learn them. And Grilley did not learn the explanations of postures because he was only a beginner-level student of Paulie Zink’s.

Paulie does not teach about meridians. He does not teach an intellectualized academic curriculum. What he does teach are the energetics of the immediate felt experience of the five alchemical elements.

The Bernie Clark article explains that Grilley “added a Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) basis for the energetic effects, modern anatomical understanding, and placed it into a solid yogic tradition.”

However, it isn’t being called Yin academic curriculum. It’s called Yin yoga. The yoga Grilley teaches, along with some of the philosophy and method, is a fragment of Paulie’s complete art of Yin yoga.

Anyone can attempt to rewrite history to serve their self-interests, but no one can alter the truth of history. It’s a done deal.

If it wasn’t for Master Paulie Zink then Paul Grilley, Bernie Clark, and Sarah Powers, never would have had the opportunity to profit one red cent from teaching Yin yoga because it would not exist.

The word “develop” is defined as “grow or cause to grow and become more mature, advanced, or elaborate.” Paulie Zink mastered the entire discipline of Taoist yoga he learned from his master. Paulie exceeded his master’s skill in the art.

Paulie evolved beyond his master’s limited thinking and the pedagogical constraints of the tradition he had been schooled in.

Paulie independently developed numerous postures and variations of postures and flow movements.

Paulie also developed meditations and a much deeper awareness of energetic alchemy than his master possessed.

Paul Grilley did none of these things.

The Bernie Clark article doesn’t disclose the fact that Paul Grilley only learned a fraction of Paulie Zink’s art. And, in my opinion, he never progressed beyond a moderate level of skill as a student. Grilley and Clark didn’t even demonstrate the postures themselves in their respective Yin yoga books. (See the blog post Grilley Got It Wrong)

Paulie Zink says, “Teaching by example is the truest way of teaching. So when I demonstrate a posture and embody the energy of it, then you can see how it’s done and get a feeling for it. But if you get talked to about doing it, if you listen to someone else’s interpretation of doing it, then you’re not going to be experiencing your true way of being it. Seeing it is better than hearing about it.”

In a private conversation at the Midwest Yoga Conference in ’08 or ’09, Paulie asked Grilley if he was certifying teachers in Yin yoga. Grilley answered, “No, you should be the one doing it.”

Dr. Elba Serrano is a Regents Professor and research scientist at NMSU and holds a real PhD. She is extremely accomplished in her field of Neuroscience and Biophysics. In addition, she is a skilled Capoeira martial arts instructor.

Elba trained with Paulie Zink for several years, first at UCLA and later in his studio at his home in the late 80’s. She recognizes Paulie Zink as the founder of Yin yoga. She says, “It is the student’s responsibility to know his teacher’s worth.”

I believe credit should be given where it is due. And Yin yoga enthusiasts deserve to be treated with respect and told the truth. Commensurate with assuming the authority of a teacher or a journalist is the responsibility to provide fair and accurate information. (See the blog post Corrections to Bernie Clark Yin Yoga Book)

Kripalu is one of the most respected and longest-running yoga retreat centers in the country. They recognize Paulie Zink as the founder of Yin yoga, as does Yoga International Magazine, Yoga Journal Conferences, Elephant Journal, Yoga Magazine, Chicago Yoga Magazine, and others.

The Bernie Clark article Clarifying Yin Yoga was posted on Sarah Power’s website. It appears to have been removed. 

Rebuttal to the Bernie Clark article: Paulie Zink Doesn’t Like “Popular” Yin Yoga

By Maria Zink

The following is an excerpt from Bernie Clark’s criticism of comments made by the founder of Yin yoga Paulie Zink (see video below),

BERNIE CLARK SAYS,

“Paulie Zink has made several statements critical of the style of Yin yoga developed by Paul Grilley. Comments include:
1) Too much yin is bad.
2) Yin yoga should work the whole body.

The first two concerns take the form of a straw man fallacy. A straw man fallacy presents a statement or assertion that is not actually part of the position or practice being critiqued. For example, the statement that ‘too much yin is bad’ implies that the Yin Yoga practice as developed by Paul Grilley is flawed because you should not only do Yin Yoga.”

The following is the context in which this statement was made:

“Will flexibility take away from strength or make somebody more injury prone?” 

Paulie Zink: “It makes people less injury prone because when you do nothing but strength training you get tighter and tighter. So then if you try to do something with flexibility you pull a muscle. So when you’re more fluid and flexible then in conjunction with strength that makes you balanced better. So yin and yang ideally should be a balance of strength and flexibility both equally. So too much yin is bad because then a person is so flexible and soft they don’t have muscle tone, and without muscle tone then you can’t move [naturally]. To move naturally like an animal does you need strength and flexibility both.”

“Well, can a person be too flexible?”

Paulie Zink: “There’s no such thing as too flexible as long as you’re balanced with strength and fluidity.”

Paulie makes no reference to or implication about Grilley’s style of teaching Yin yoga in these remarks. It seems to me that Bernie Clark is the one who is propounding a “straw man fallacy.” 

Bernie Clark says, “The second straw man is the claim that Yin Yoga should work the whole body, implying that Yin Yoga (Paul Grilley) is only for the lower body. However, in the Yin Yoga (PG) style, upper body stretches are also employed. For example, in the book The Complete Guide to Yin Yoga [by Bernie Clark] there is a section on Yin Yoga for the upper body.”

Bernie Clark has had ample opportunity to learn additional Yin yoga postures taught by Paulie Zink that Paul Grilley did not learn in his year of study with Master Zink. Clark’s book The Complete Guide to Yin Yoga was published in 2012. Bernie Clark purchased Paulie Zink’s “Beginner’s” and “Live Class Sessions 1-4” yoga DVD’s on April 16, 2006.

Bernie Clark attended two yoga workshops taught by Paulie Zink in April 2007 and in November 2008 at Semperviva Yoga in Vancouver, BC, where Clark was teaching weekly classes. 

It’s worth noting that Bernie Clark and Paul Grilley had access to various additional sources from Paulie Zink, beyond what they might have learned solely from their direct interactions. Paulie’s Teacher Training manual, initially published in 2009, presents over 75 postures demonstrated by Paulie himself. Additionally, his Yin Yoga Basics video, released in 2010, is a valuable resource featuring numerous postures taught by Paulie. The Yin Yoga Trilogy DVD, published in 2014, goes even further, offering a rich collection of postures.

Moreover, Paulie’s online presence contributes significantly to the available resources. His website showcases several photos demonstrating various postures, and his YouTube channel contains demo and class videos, providing a visual guide for learners. It’s important to recognize the breadth of material that Paulie has shared over the years.

Furthermore, anecdotal evidence from students who attended Paulie’s workshops and teacher training indicates connections between them and Bernie Clark or Paul Grilley. Some attendees have explicitly mentioned knowing these teachers. It’s conceivable that other students were acquainted with Clark or Grilley but chose not to disclose this information.

Considering the wealth of resources and the potential overlap in student circles, it would be prudent for the broader yoga community to acknowledge the diverse avenues through which Paulie Zink’s teachings have been disseminated, ensuring due credit for his valuable contributions to the practice.

Bernie Clark argues, “Paulie is asserting that his style of Yin Yoga is the ‘genuine’ practice while Paul Grilley’s style he calls ‘commercial’ or ‘popular’ Yin Yoga. This plays off the confusion Paulie created when he renamed his Taoist Yoga practice Yin Yoga. However, Yin Yoga (Paul Grilley) is not a subset or precursor to Yin Yoga (Zink).”

In truth, it is Sarah Powers who renamed Master Zink’s yoga, that is to say, the beginner-level fraction of Master Zink’s complete art of yoga that Grilley learned. And Paul Grilley followed suit. 

Paul Grilley’s first book is titled Taoist Yoga: outline of a quiet practice and the second edition of this book is titled Yin Yoga: outline of a quiet practice.

As you can see in the photos below showing both editions of Grilley’s first book, the table of contents is the same in each book. The second edition contains all of the same photographs which illustrate all of the same postures that are in the first edition. Grilley credits Paulie Zink with teaching him Taoist yoga.

Grilley himself has said, “Yin Yoga is not ‘yet another’ brand name of Yoga postures, it is part of a larger conception of Yoga that can be called Taoist Yoga.” PaulGrilley.com, 2008

Another point of contention Bernie Clark makes is regarding Paulie Zink’s comment, “Yin yoga was never meant to be dead yoga.” Clark says this is “just mean” and points out that “dead people can’t do Yin yoga.”

The interview and demo below were made by request for BreakingMuscle.com. It was Dan Kallen of BreakingMuscle.com who provided the questions for the interview. One of those questions was,

What defines ‘genuine’ Yin Yoga?

Paulie Zink: “Genuine Yin yoga would encompass the energies of the elements and the animals. So it’s based on the five transforming energies and then the animal postures. So when you are showing a student say the Dragon posture or the Cross Legged Frog posture you would embody that energy so people could see ‘Oh, there’s a frog’, versus somebody else saying, ‘Here, get into this posture and just hold it while I time you’. And the people have no energy. So Yin yoga was never meant to be dead yoga. It was meant to be an alive, powerful form of yoga.”

Paulie Zink expresses a perspective rooted in energetics when discussing Yin yoga. In essence, he emphasizes that, within his approach to Yin yoga, the postures and flowing movements are intended to embody the essence of alchemical elements and animal energetics. The key idea is that, in Paulie Zink’s interpretation, the yoga practice comes alive when infused with these energetic qualities. Therefore, what lacks animation or vitality is considered inanimate within this context. The notion is that by incorporating the energetic elements inspired by alchemy and animal movements, the practice becomes more dynamic and alive.

It is disheartening to witness the derogatory treatment that Paulie Zink, a true master in the art of Yin yoga, receives both publicly and privately. His unparalleled skill in Yin yoga vastly surpasses that of Bernie Clark and Paul Grilley. Yet, he has been subject to distortions and discrediting tactics by individuals who have profited from his teachings for years. This behavior, as highlighted in the blog post: pauliezink.com/corrections-bernie-clark/, goes beyond mere disagreement; it involves attempts to diminish the accomplishments of a person of great achievement.

It is essential to recognize that such tactics of distortion and discrediting are not only unfair to Paulie Zink but also reflective of oppressive practices. In the spirit of fostering a positive and respectful yoga community, it is crucial to appreciate and acknowledge the true contributions and mastery that Paulie Zink brings to the realm of Yin yoga. By refraining from engaging in derogatory behavior and promoting a culture of mutual respect, we can create a more inclusive and supportive environment for everyone involved in the practice.

*Paulie’s Yin Yoga Flow Demo & Interview