Review of The Complete Guide to Yin Yoga

Review of The Complete Guide to Yin Yoga
Entering and exiting asana happens multiple times during most classes. Sometimes, we seem to spend more time moving through poses than we do holding them. We move to stretch and strengthen the muscles so that we may sit more comfortably in meditation. This is the theory of most yogic traditions, which are considered yang in nature by proponents of Yin Yoga, a path that focuses on stressing fascia, connective tissues, and bones. When taking a Yin class, we work differently: creating the pose using any props or modifications needed for our individual bodies and settling in, sometimes holding poses for five minutes or more at a time. It’s a completely different way to work with the bodymind.

Bernie Clark’s The Complete Guide to Yin Yoga is a thorough description of the ways in which Yin differs from other yogic paths. Beginning with a history of the practice (which derives from Chinese martial arts and medicine as well as from traditional hatha yoga), Clark then explains how Yin differs from other forms of yoga, covering such ideas as a ‘manageable’ stretch, breathing into the postures and our bodies, and moving deeper when the body decides to allow it (and not before.) Breathwork becomes an important part of each pose as we still our bodies, allowing our minds the opportunity for similar rest.

From here, Clark moves into a description of Poses. Unlike other Yin practitioners, who generally use English names for the movements, Clark uses some Sanskrit terms in both pose names and yoga concepts. He discusses each pose in some depth, focusing on how to get in, how to stay, how to come out, benefits, contraindications, and the like. He gives suggestions for how long to stay in each pose, as well as suggestions of how each Yin pose matches up with what practitioners have learned in more traditional yoga classes. Following this ‘yogapedia,’ Clark offers a few series, which he calls “flows”; these can be used to structure home practice.

This tome finishes with a comprehensive discussion of the benefits of Yin Yoga, focusing on the physical and then energetic body, finishing with a look at what this practice does to the heart and mind. He includes a bibliography for the reader who wants to go further into understanding the concepts of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) referred to by Yin teachers.

With this book, Clark has written a thorough explanation of the Yin Yoga system and how to practice in this style. The encyclopedia of poses is also thorough, allowing intrepid yogi/nis the opportunity to practice on their own. While no book can ever replace the help provided by an in-person yoga teacher,The Complete Guide to Yin Yoga is an extremely helpful tool for those who want to move forward when no in-person classes are available.

Disclaimer: I have been trained as a Yin Yoga teacher; I purchased classes with my own funds. Similarly, I bought my own copy of this book. I have never met Bernie Clark and have no professional connection with him aside from the fact that we both practice and teach Yin Yoga.

Clark, Bernie. The Complete Guide to Yin Yoga: The Philosophy and Practice of Yin Yoga. Wild Strawberry Productions: Vancouver, Canada. 2012

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