Teaching Yin As Yin…


Yin yoga is a wonderful practice. There are many great Yin yoga teachers. And there are some not so good. Someone recently told me about a Yin yoga class they had been attending. It seemed that the teacher believed if the word ‘yin’ was mentioned often enough while speaking slowly and in a soft voice…then the class becomes Yin.

Even when other instructions in the class include engaging the core (no matter what pose is being practiced). Even when the teacher seems to believe that any pose (whether it is yoga or pilates or something else) becomes a Yin pose if it is held for any length of time. The poses are held until the majority of the class come out of them (thus potentially reinforcing the not good enough stories and making participants feel that they have failed). This is a misunderstanding (in my opinion). Not particularly safe and certainly not yin.

The first book on Yin yoga was published in 2002: the excellent Yin Yoga: outline of a quiet practice by Paul Grilley. Nearly twenty years later, there are probably about 30 books available specifically on the Yin yoga practice. In 2002 the UK had (to the best of my knowledge) no weekly Yin yoga classes. Now in the UK, there are hundreds and hundreds of weekly Yin yoga classes. From zero to many in less than twenty years.


But sometimes some teachers think that teaching Yin is easy. Not that many poses. Not a great focus on alignment points. I know Yin yoga teachers who have hardly read any books on this practice; nor been on any specific trainings for this practice. Or just done a two-day training and think that will do. Or have barely any self-practice; or rarely attend other teachers’ Yin yoga classes.

In my opinion, this is not good enough. This causes a substantial confusion of the Yin yoga practice and ensures that students are being significantly misinformed. I believe that all of us who are teaching Yin yoga need to regularly study and reflect – and practice this form. Not just doing this for pieces of paper (aka certificates); but for the insights, the joys, the inspirations that can come from Yin yoga. To be feeding our passion for the yin.

I still clearly remember a London studio owner saying to me in about 2016 after she had been auditioning Yin yoga teachers: “Teaching Yin is relatively easy – but teaching it well is incredibly difficult.” So true. So train and practice and study. Be yin: patient and persistent. Because it can take a long time and a lot of practice for us to fully embed ourselves in Yin yoga (just like other forms of yoga). To get a good understanding. To become good teachers. Because good teaching comes from the ability to be present and the skills of enquiry. And then we can be appropriately honouring the yin: “Stillness…one of the doorways into the temple.”

Norman Blair
8 December 2020