Yin Yoga is a slow-paced style of yoga as exercise with asanas (postures) that are held for longer periods of time—for beginners, it may range from 45 seconds to two minutes; more advanced practitioners may stay in one asana for five minutes or more.
Yin Yoga poses apply moderate stress to the connective tissues of the body—the tendons, fascia, and ligaments—with the aim of increasing circulation in the joints and improving flexibility. A more meditative approach to yoga, its goals are awareness of inner silence, and bringing to light a universal, interconnecting quality.
Yin Yoga began in the late 1970s as martial arts expert and yoga teacher Paulie Zink's Taoist Yoga. Yin yoga is taught across North America and Europe, encouraged by the Yin Yoga teachers and developers Paul Grilley and Sarah Powers. Yin Yoga as taught by Grilley and Powers is not intended as a complete practice in itself, but as a complement to more active forms of yoga and exercise. However, Zink's approach includes the full range of Taoist yoga, both yin and yang.:21
Roots in India and ChinaEdit
The practice of holding yoga postures or asanas for extended periods of time is a significant part of traditional yoga practice, both in the hatha yoga tradition of India and in the Taoist yoga tradition of the greater China area. For example, B. K. S. Iyengar recommended holding Supta Virasana (reclining hero pose) for 10–15 minutes.:12 Long-held stretches are recommended in other physical disciplines, such as gymnastics and ballet, to increase flexibility.:28
Taoist yoga practices from China also included yin-style poses in the Taoist system of "Internal Alchemy"—practiced for the purpose of improving health and longevity.:15 Techniques for stretching of this type have been practiced for centuries in China and Taiwan as part of Taoist yoga, which was sometimes known as Dao Yin. Taoist priests taught long-held poses, along with breathing techniques, to Kung Fu practitioners beginning 2000 years ago, to help them fully develop their martial arts skills.
Beginnings in the WestEdit
The practice of performing a series of long-held floor poses was introduced in North America in the late 1970s by Zink. Zink trained for 10 years, during the 1970s, in daily private classes with Cho Chat Ling, a Kung-Fu and Taoist yoga master from Hong Kong specializing in Tai shing pek kwar, or Monkey Kung Fu. At the end of the decade, Zink entered the Long Beach International Karate Championships in 1981, 1982 and 1983 and won Grand Champion in the "weapons forms" category in all three years, and was also Grand Champion in the "empty hands" category in two of those years. Black Belt magazine named him Kung Fu artist of the year in 1989. Noted in the Kung Fu community for his exceptional personal flexibility, Zink also emphasized flexibility training in his martial arts classes as a method to develop agility, power and endurance.
In the late 70s, Zink began to teach a synthesis of hatha yoga with Taoist Yoga, as well as postures, movements and insights that he had developed himself. He later called this synthesis "Yin and Yang yoga," or "Yin yoga" for short.:19:20
In his first years of teaching, many of Zink's students were martial arts practitioners who had developed strong but tight muscles, and he taught them only beginner level Taoist yoga, focusing on long-held yin poses to alleviate their lack of flexibility. However, as more students came he began to teach more advanced levels. He explained that in order to develop full flexibility, the student must restore his own primal nature, through several Taoist yoga practices, as follows: yin asanas— mostly sitting or lying postures; yang asanas— more active, strenuous postures; Taoist Flow yoga— both yin and yang yoga postures practiced in continuous, smooth and circular motions; Chi Kung — involving simple and gentle movement and breathing techniques; and Taoist alchemy— based upon the Taoist theory of the five elements used in Chinese medicine.:19  Taoist Alchemy is a method of embodying the energetic attributes of various animals and enlivening the five alchemical elements believed to be contained in the body's energetic field. The five transforming energies of Earth, Metal, Water, Wood, and Fire animate distinct qualities in the body such as calm, strength, fluidity, springiness and lightness, respectively.
Paul Grilley and Sarah PowersEdit
Grilley studied anatomy in Montana under Dr. Garry Parker and then at University of California, Los Angeles. There, he also taught hatha yoga including Ashtanga and Bikram Yoga, and managed a yoga studio.:21 In 1989, Grilley met Hiroshi Motoyama, a Japanese scholar and yogi, who had researched the physiology of Traditional Chinese Medicine and written on it extensively. Motoyama was interested in the physiology of the meridians, or subtle pathways and vessels, and the qi or subtle energy hypothesized to flow through or get stored in them. These are fundamental concepts in Chinese medicine and acupuncture. He related these to the parallel concepts of the nadi pathways and chakras of Indian yoga, and the prana said to be carried within them.
Grilley began to teach a fusion of the Yin poses he had learned from Zink with hatha yoga and anatomy, and the teachings of Motoyama.:22 He created yin sequences with aims similar to that of an acupuncturist. Yin teacher and author Ulrica Norberg says that Grilley "evolved Yin Yoga further." Bernie Clark, a Yin Yoga author and teacher said that Grilley's synthesis of anatomy, Taoist Yoga, and meridian theory "resonated with many people who recognized the benefits of the practice and related to Paul's model of the body/mind/soul." 
One of Grilley's students, the yoga teacher Sarah Powers, began teaching yoga in his style. She incorporated Buddhist psychology and put more emphasis on targeting the meridian systems for health and enlightenment. Her book, Insight Yoga, explains Yin Yoga sequences designed to enhance the flow of qi as understood in Traditional Chinese Medicine. She emphasized a conscious and systematic approach to breathing during yin practice.
Grilley at first called it Taoist Yoga, in deference to Zink's term. Powers, noting that the yoga she and Grilley were teaching was different from Zink's, suggested the term Yin Yoga. Zink adopted the term as a short form for "Yin and Yang Yoga."
Powers began teaching Yin Yoga in her tours. When her students asked for more information, she referred them to Grilley, who received requests to travel and give seminars. Powers, Grilley, and Zink began offering Yin Yoga teacher training courses. Over the next 10 years, Yin Yoga became available across North America and in Europe, through yoga classes, and via DVDs and books. In 2002, Grilley published the book, Yin Yoga: A Quiet Practice (and in 2012 a revised edition titled, Yin yoga Principles and Practice). In 2006, Biff Mithoefer, a student of Grilley and Powers, published The Yin yoga Kit, which included a volume of instruction as well as a DVD. In 2008, Powers published the book, Insight Yoga, which teaches Yin Yoga sequences and more active (or yang) sequences. Bernie Clark, also a student of Grilley and Powers, began the website yinyoga.com in 2006, and published his book, The Complete Guide to Yin yoga in 2012. Grilley, Powers, and Zink have released instructional DVDs on Yin yoga.
Zink's approach to Yin Yoga consists of both yin and yang postures, and also incorporates movement in between postures as a yang element. In contrast, Yin yoga sessions taught by Grilley and Powers consist of a series of long-held, passive floor poses that primarily affect the lower part of the body—the hips, pelvis, inner thighs, lower spine—about 18 to 24 in number. These areas are especially rich in connective tissues, the "loading" of which (Yin yoga teachers avoid the word "stretching") is a main focus in this style of yoga. Grilley and Powers both emphasize the value of more active, yang-type poses, but do not generally mix yin and yang styles.
Yin Yoga employs specific sequences of poses to stimulate particular meridians, or subtle channels, as understood in Traditional Chinese Medicine, the far eastern counterpart of India's Ayurveda; the system of medicine claims that there are energy channels of the subtle body, called nadi (Sanskrit for "stream"), with the ida, pingala, and sushumna as the principal nadis.
During the long hold times of the yin asanas, teachers usually give "dharma talks," informal monologues that often explain the physiology and anatomy of poses, including the meridian lines being affected. They may tell traditional Buddhist stories, recite poetry, sing songs, or reflect on their own experience.
In keeping with its roots in Taoist Yoga, Zink says that Yin yoga has a deeper purpose: to "open the heart and invoke the primal self." Powers says one of the primary objectives of yin practice is the cultivation of inner stillness.
Yin and yangEdit
Yin yoga is based on the Taoist concepts of yin and yang, opposite and complementary principles in nature. Yin could be described as stable, immobile, feminine, passive, cold, and downward moving. Yang is understood to be changing, mobile, masculine, active, hot, and upward moving. The sun is considered yang, the moon yin. In the body, the relatively stiff connective tissues (tendons, ligaments, fascia) are yin, while the more mobile and pliable muscles and blood are yang. More passive asanas in yoga are considered yin, whereas the more active, dynamic asanas are described as yang.
Distinction from hatha yogaEdit
Although many Yin Yoga poses closely resemble the asanas of hatha yoga, they have different names, in part to alert those familiar with hatha yoga not to perform them in the same way. In general, the poses of Yin yoga are performed with little muscular exertion. For example, in Seal pose, in which a practitioner lies face down and raises the trunk, the upward movement is gradual and entirely supported by the arms, while the legs are relaxed. But in Bhujangasana (Cobra Pose), the practitioner actively curves the spine upward in an arc using arms and lower back muscles, and reaches back with the legs strongly.
The intensity and physical benefits of Yin yoga practice depend on two variables: duration of the asana, and the temperature of the muscle. Asanas are usually held for five minutes, but can be held for as long as twenty. Because of the long duration of asanas, it is said that patience is another of the key values cultivated by Yin yoga.
It is usually recommended that Yin Yoga be practiced when the muscles are not yet warmed up. When the muscles are cold, they are less elastic, and more stress will be transferred to the connective tissue. However, this is a general rule and for some people, it is better to stay a bit warm while practicing. Because this style of yoga does not generate bodily heat, yin teachers recommend keeping the temperature of the room a little higher than usual.:33 During yin asanas, muscles are relaxed to avoid tetany, or muscle spasm, which could result from engaging muscles for long periods.
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