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What Made A Student Say 'F U' In My Yin Class, And How Grateful She Was The Next Day


“F$#& You!” The usually reserved and quiet middle-aged student blurted out in my first public Yin Yoga class.

You might be shocked, and I recall being surprised, but not overly shocked.

After all, the pose we were in, called Seal Pose, can be 'freaky' on your first experience.

Mind you, I said that at the onset of the pose, and then repeated it upon hearing her words.

In hindsight, she might have not even realized she said it out loud, and the mark of good teaching is knowing when to allow people’s emotions to be expressed without needing to validate, assuage, or comment on the actual expression.

The year was 2001, and while I had known about Yin Yoga for over a year, the principles of staying in a pose for 3-5 min or more, was no different than the Iyengar Yoga methodology. At least that was how I thought of it.

For two months a fellow yoga teacher that I would see at the end of my classes at various fitness centers or yoga studios in Encinitas, CA had asked me to attend her Yin class.

Somehow I always had an excuse, whether I was going surfing, or having to teach, or just being tired from my own busy schedule.

However, it so happened, that on a Friday morning, after checking the surf and discovering that it was a flat ocean, I ran into Lynn on my way into the local health store. Lynn was just leaving, and she asked if I wanted to take her 11am Yin Yoga class at the studio just next to the organic shop.

With no excuse in my mind, I said yes.

Her class, lasting 90 minutes. Followed Paul Grilley’s general sequence (something I discover two days later upon purchasing his small green book amply titled ‘Yin Yoga.’). Each pose was held for 5 minutes.

We started with Dragon Pose, followed by Gecko Pose, moving into Half Butterfly, Butterfly, Caterpillar, Swan, Seal, Saddle, and Final Twist (for a 16 minute Yin Yoga sequence that will reshape your hips and low back click here).

If I am being honest, the class was nice, but unmemorable.

Lynn’s discussion of meridian theory was interesting to listen to, but I enjoy the yoga philosophy more than TCM (today I am well versed in TCM, Thai Massage, Integrative Nutrition, Western Functional Anatomy, Body Work and Massage).

Needless to say, I left and enjoyed the rest of my Friday not ever giving Yin Yoga another thought.

That was until Sunday came around.

What changed on Sunday?

My daily practice is Ashtanga.

Ashtanga Yoga is a physically demanding Yoga practice. That is done 6 days in a week, with Saturday being a day off.

At the time, I had been practicing the primary series for about 5 months. It has become my daily practice having been inspired by David Swenson connecting Patanjali’s Sutras and the physical practice, which up until that point my experience has been far from positive.

Having a daily practice that is physically demanding means that one is very acutely aware of changes in the body.

Imagine my shock that on Sunday my practice not only felt lighter, my body entered many of the challenging hip postures with an ease that could not be attributed to anything but the Yin practice I did on Friday (after all, just because I took Saturday off was not the case of the new found freedom and ease).

By 10am I was in the Barnes and Nobles buying Paul Grilley’s book, and by the end of the day I had read every article, and every post that Paul had online (in 2001 YouTube was not even a thought, and the YinYoga was not a website). For courses and my book on Yin Yoga click here.

Paul’s story left a huge imprint on me ever since, and along with the changes I saw in my body, it was an obvious choice the following day (Monday afternoon) to share this “easy” practice in the gentle yoga class I was asked to sub.

In 2001 few people have heard of Yin Yoga, and since I was subbing a gentle class, I decided to share the incredible practice I had a newfound intense passion for.

The class comprised of poses held for 3 minutes (Paul points out in his book that 3 minute is a good starting point, though he also assures practitioners that some poses 60 second might be the starting point).  As you recall, I read everything Paul Grilley had published, including his 'Yin Yoga book' the day before. For the class I simply used the general sequence I read in his book: Butterfly, Half Butterfly, Caterpillar, Swan, Seal, Half Saddle, Final Twist.

Where Lynn talked about meridians and Chinese theory, I talked about Paul’s story, finding Yin Yoga after talking to his martial arts teacher, Paulie Zink about his problems in seated meditation.
When the student said “F U” I was astounded, but I knew that Seal Pose is one of the most important poses in the Yin Yoga book.

I encouraged her to come out of the pose if she needed, and while no more outbursts were heard that class, she did not look me in the eye when she left.

The following day, while shopping at the same local organic store, I ran into her husband (who was also in the class the night before).

When he saw me, he came right up to me, with a look on his face that was hard to read. “I don’t know what you did,” he began, making my inner barometer rise in caution. “I don’t know what you did, but my wife has been suffering from back pain and bad sleep for over two years now, and last night was the first night she slept with no pain!”

Avoiding the desire to take personal credit, his feedback echoed the same experience I had in my Ashtanga practice. That a well structured Yin Yoga sequence can transform the body.

Since 2001 I have been practicing Yin almost daily, and while living in Mysore India, I held daily yin practices in my apartment that were open to any practitioner. I have seen bodies change, minds inspired, and freedom created where stress and tension laid for years.

I have also seen Yin Yoga grow, though sadly I see very awkward sequences being shared in classes, principles that are simple and are laid out in Paul’s book, and also reflect any sequence practice that has survived at least 100 years (there are only 3 such sequences, Ashtagna, Hot 26 and Sivananda).

You can learn these principles, along with TCM and the power of meridian theory, along with specific sequences for knees, hips and low back in my book “How Yin Yoga Healed My Student’s Knee” as well as in my online Yin Yoga Courses.

If you want to experience my teaching live, you can spend a week or two in Thailand where we practice Yin nightly and Yang in the morning in my dual annual Thailand Yoga Retreat which is held in the Luxury Resort Winner Award Retreat Center called Aava (the next retreat is happening this June 2018, click here for more).

By joining my Facebook Group “GabeYogAcademy” you will have access to Live Yin Yoga classes, where you can enjoy my approach to sharing insight, humor and invaluable tips for students and teachers alike.

Of course, if you want to learn how to share humor, how to weave philosophy, and how to sequence your yin practice for maximum benefit, come find my training around the world on GabeYoga.com.

Till then, know that you can reshape your hips, your low back and your knees with these simple 3 poses done in the order which they are written: Swan, Seal, Saddle, Twist.

They can all be done while watching your favorite TV Show!

I would love to hear from you about your experience with this sequence, Yin Yoga in general, or your challenges with Yoga practice. Write me to gabe@gabeyoga.com.