A question that I am often asked is "do I need to be authorized or certified in order to teach Yin Yoga?" Sometimes this question comes from someone who has not yet received her 200 hour basic Yoga Teacher Training Certification, and she is wondering if teaching Yin Yoga requires such a background. Other times the question comes from someone who noticed on Paulie Zink's website that he has not authorized anyone else to certify Yin Yoga teachers. And sometimes the question is raised by a student who has taken a Yin Yoga class, but the class was nothing like the Yin Yoga she was expecting. If we were to summarize the confusion, it revolves around 2 questions:
- 1) What is Yin Yoga?
2) Who is allowed to teach it?
While anyone could describe their yoga practice as Yin Yoga, it is also true to say that since the late 1990's the practice commonly known as Yin Yoga, as offered in thousands of yoga studios around the world, is the practice originally developed and popularized by Paul Grilley and Sarah Powers, as described in their various writings, books, audio and video tapes, DVDs and online practices. To avoid confusion for the rest of this article, I will refer to the style of Yin Yoga developed by Paul Grilley as Yin Yoga[G]. This will be a useful distinction, because in 2009 Paulie Zink, with whom Paul Grilley had studied once a week for about a year in 1989, began to describe his practice as Yin Yoga. We will refer to Paulie's practice as Yin Yoga[Z].
What are the differences between Yin Yoga[G] and Yin Yoga[Z]? Yin Yoga[G] was the term Paul and Sarah used to differentiate their practice from the Taoist Yoga practice being offered by Paulie Zink. Paulie Zink, in his website, gave Sarah Powers credit for coining the term Yin Yoga. At this time, in 2003, Paulie described his practice as Taoist Yoga, which he defined as follows:
- "Taoist Yoga is a form of Chi Kung, an ancient Chinese system comprised of various techniques for cultivating and directing vital energy known as chi or prana. The style of yoga taught by Master Zink was originally developed by Taoist priests in Northern China for maintaining physical vigor and mental clarity."
- "Master Zink was the Taoist yoga instructor for teacher Paul Grilley, who went on to develop a derivitive [sic] he calls Yin yoga."
- "A great resource for Canadian and US Yin Yoga enthusiasts. You will find a directory of Yin Yoga instructors and information on upcoming events by popular masters of the art..."
- Yin Yoga
Taoist Flow Yoga
- "Paul Grilley studied Taoist Yoga with Master Zink for about a year in the late 1980s. Grilley taught the basics he learned about Taoist Yoga to Sarah Powers. Sarah began teaching what she learned from Grilley and changed the name to Yin Yoga. Grilley also incorporates his own philosophy and theories and those that he learned from his studies with Dr. Motoyama into his teachings. In order to avoid confusion Master Zink now refers to his Taoist art of yoga as Yin and Yang yoga."
- Yin Yoga
Taoist Flow Yoga
So, now we come back to our original question: who is authorized to teach Yin Yoga? If we refer to Yin Yoga[Z] as defined and developed by Paulie Zink, clearly Paulie is the one to seek out for training in this particular style of Taoist Yoga. However, if you are seeking training in Yin Yoga[G], you would be best advised to seek out Paul Grilley, Sarah Powers, or a teacher taught by them or in this lineage.
Remember, no authorization is needed to teach Yin Yoga[G]. Paul has allowed Yin Yoga[G] to be an open source practice that anyone can contribute to and modify. However, it is prudent to have the requisite experience in Yin Yoga[G] before sharing it with others.
And this brings us back to another earlier question: can someone who has no yoga teacher training experience teach Yin Yoga? Highly unlikely! Think of it like this --- as a student, would you take piano lessons from someone who has never played piano before? How much experience as a player and a teacher would you want your piano teacher to have before you decided to study with her? 50 hours? 200 hours? 1,000 hours? Clearly, the more the better, but there is a prerequisite amount of knowledge anyone must have before they can teach others.
Today, in the yoga world, the basic level of prerequisite is at least a 200-hour teacher training program. Without that basic level of training, it would be very difficult to find an insurance company willing to insure you as a teacher. Yin Yoga[G] teacher training (YYTT) programs are becoming more common, popular and available, but all of them focus on teaching Yin Yoga[G], not the basic teachings of yoga. Said another way, these YYTT do not teach one how to teach yoga, but if you are already a yoga teacher they will teach you had to add Yin Yoga[G] to your repertoire. This does not mean that a non-yoga teacher cannot attend a YYTT: they can and many do, but a YYTT will not turn a non-yoga teacher into a yoga teacher. These courses are not designed to do that.
Let's return to our original question: who owns Yin Yoga? If you are referring to the Taoist Yoga style that Paulie Zink is today calling Yin Yoga[Z], Paulie Zink claims ownership. If you are asking who owns YinYoga[G] - you do!
Now, what are you going to do with it?