Rebuttal to Bernie Clark articles.
Clarifying Yin Yoga by Bernie Clark, April 17, 2019
In this Bernie Clark article posted on Sarah powers’ website, 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).
This is misleading. Paul Grilley, not Paulie Zink, developed yin yoga as a style of yoga.”
Crandell is mistaken; Monkey Kung fu is not a performance art. It is a martial art.
As for Grilley developing the style of Yin yoga, note that the Kripalu website bio of Paul Grilley (see photo) states: “Paul Grilley has been teaching yoga since 1980 in the style of Taoist master Paulie Zink.”
Actually, Grilley did not study with Paulie Zink until circa 1988. Prior to that Grilley taught Ashtanga yoga. After he studied with Paulie Zink he then taught Paulie’s art, albeit a truncated version of it.Clark 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.”
In the interview Talking Shop with Paul Grilley, Yoga Journal, June 2003, 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 [that she learned from Grilley, and which he learned from Master Zink] in her classes. It just made sense to use the same language.”
I can understand how it made sense to use the same language that Powers was using since she was a well established yoga teacher at the time and was referring her students to Grilley. In contrast, while Master Zink was renowned in the martial arts world, he was mostly obscure within the yoga scene of the day.
Clark asserts, “Paul did study with Paulie -but Paul never did Paulie’s martial arts practice.”
Grilley’s description in the Talking Shop interview of Master Zink’s classes contradicts this claim. 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.”
Calling the martial art movements “Yang yoga” is a misnomer. Master Zink’s Yang yoga is exactly that, yoga. The martial art aspects of his classes were kung fu. What Grilley is referring to as “yang yoga” is in fact kung fu. Grilley learned a kung fu form from Master Zink called Aura Palm.
Clark further asserts, “Eventually, Paul 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. Neither did he learn the explanations of postures nor the Taoist alchemy Paulie teaches which is based upon the five elements used in Traditional Chinese Medicine. Paulie does not teach meridians. What he does teach are the energetics of the five elements in the capacity of immediate felt experience, not as an academic study.
Clark continues 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 being called Yin yoga. And the yoga Grilley teaches, along with some of the philosophy and method, is a fragment of Paulie’s art.
Let’s consider a hypothetical situation. Imagine that Grilley never studied with Master Zink. Instead, he learned from another American master, Ana Forrest, just a very basic beginner level of Forrest yoga. And then he incorporated his anatomy and meridian curriculum and changed the name to “Tree” yoga. Now imagine that he is declared the developer of Tree yoga. I wonder how Ana Forrest would feel about that?
Legally, anyone would be prohibited from claiming that Grilley developed Tree yoga because Forrest yoga is trademarked. According to the American Marketing Association, “the point of a trademark is to identify a specific product as coming from a specific source”. Trademarks protect intellectual property rights. However, trademarks do not create the truth. The law does not regulate reality. Truth is autonomous and inviolate. And rights are inherent, whether or not they are legally mandated. Anyone can attempt to rewrite history in order to serve their own interests, but no one can actually alter the truth of history. It’s a done deal.
And the truth is, if it wasn’t for Master Paulie Zink then Paul Grilley, Bernie Clark, Sarah Powers, and others, 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 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 his own meditations and a much deeper awareness of energetic alchemy than his master possessed.
Paul Grilley did not. Grilley only learned a fraction of Paulie’s art. And, in my opinion, he never progressed beyond a moderate level of skill as a student and had his wife model the postures in his book. (See the blog post “Grilley Got It Wrong”)
Paulie once asked Grilley in a conversation they had at the Midwest Yoga Conference in ’08 or ’09 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 wrote to me, “It is the student’s responsibility to know his teacher’s worth.”
I wonder why certain Yin yoga teachers can’t afford to treat Master Zink with appreciation for his contribution to modern yoga and accord him credit where it is due? 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: Bernie Clark”) Ultimately it’s up to the student to demand no less.
Sarah Powers is a Buddhist teacher. One of the fundamental precepts of Buddhism is to “Refrain from wrong speech.”
The article Clarifying Yin Yoga by Bernie Clark is posted on Sarah Powers’ website:
“Teaching by example is the truest way of teaching. So if 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 own true way of being it. Seeing it is better than hearing about it.”
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.
Clark article: Paulie Zink Doesn’t Like “Popular” Yin Yoga
In Bernie Clark’s criticism of Paulie’s comments that he made in an interview (video link below*), 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: “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: “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 Yin yoga in these remarks. It seems to me that Clark is the one who is propounding a “straw man fallacy.”
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 bookThe 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.
There are additional possible sources that Clark (and Grilley-see blog post pauliezink.com/paul-grilley-got-it-wrong/) could have learned from such as Paulie’s Teacher Training manual which was first published in 2009, this book contains over 75 postures demonstrated by Paulie, Paulie’s Yin Yoga Basics video published in 2010, which contains numerous postures taught by Paulie. (Paulie’s Yin Yoga Trilogy dvd, published 2014 contains many more postures.) Furthermore, Paulie’s websites feature several photos of him demonstrating postures. And Paulie has several demo and class videos on his youtube channel. Also, there have been students who have attended Paulie’s workshops and teacher trainings who told Paulie that they know Bernie Clark and/or Paul Grilley. Perhaps there have also been students in attendance who knew one or both of them but did not divulge that information.
Another point of contention Clark makes is in regard to Paulie’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.”
Clark argues, “Paulie is asserting that his style of Yin Yoga is the ‘genuine’ practice while Paul’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).”
This interview and demo was 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: “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’, verses 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 is speaking in terms of energetics. What he is saying here, is that in Paulie’s art of Yin yoga the postures and flowing movements are meant to be animated with the essence of alchemical elements and the animal energetics. What is inanimate is not alive.
If you want to talk about being mean, the derogatory way Paulie Zink, a true master whose skill far exceeds their own, is treated both publicly and privately by people who have profited for years from his yoga, just sickens my heart. See blog post pauliezink.com/corrections-bernie-clark/ Distorting and discrediting the things a person of great achievement says and attempting to diminish his accomplishments are tactics of oppression.
Point in fact, it was Paul Grilley and Sarah Powers who changed the name of Master Zink’s Taoist yoga to Yin yoga. 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 exact same photographs which illustrate all of the exact same postures that are in the first edition. And 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
The following is the complete list of interview questions provided by Dan Kallen of BreakingMuscle.com on Jan 9, 2017:
How did you get started?
Did you feel like you were a “natural” for kung fu and yoga?
What sports or activities did you do growing up and before martial arts?
Were you always very flexible?
What do you think about flexibility — is there such a thing as too flexible? Will flexibility take away from strength or make someone more injury prone? Can anyone become very flexible?
Do you have any thoughts on the current emphasis in the fitness world on “mobility,” with such things as the “Mobility WOD”?
What distinguishes Yin Yoga from other types of Yoga?
Where did it come from?
What is the connection between the style of kung fu you studied and Yin Yoga?
What defines “genuine” Yin Yoga?
What is a Yin Yoga class like?
Is Yin Yoga for everyone, or is it a specific type of Yoga only for certain people?
What is the current state of Yin Yoga in the US? In the world?
How can someone find a qualified YinYoga instructor?
Can you show some Yin Yoga and describe what makes it different?