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by Paul Grilley
Prana Maya, 2005
Review by Christian Perring, Ph.D. on Jul 31st 2007
This Yin Yoga DVD has two disks. On the first disk, the main item is a107 minute lecture explaining the theory behind yin yoga. Paul Grilley talks to an audience which we do not see just using a large writing pad to jot down a few key words. Yin yoga is done with the muscles relaxed and each posture is held for a long time. It focuses on the joints and ligaments. He says it has become an orthodoxy that we should never exercise the joints, and he argues that this is a mistake. He admits that it is a very bad idea to give the joints vigorous exercise, but he points out that yin yoga is not vigorous. He also points out that when we do not regularly use our joints, they lose their function. His main claim is that yin yoga, through its works on the joints, ligaments and deep tissue, is very beneficial. Stress on the joints can be good, when done in the right way. He points out that physiotherapists and spinal doctors will sometimes use methods that are very close to some of the methods of yin yoga to help people become stronger. Although he takes his time, he makes a strong case that gently and carefully exerting stress on joints can be beneficial. Grilley's explanations are in straightforward language and while they refer to Eastern concepts, there's nothing here that requires one to adopt unusual metaphysical views. Just about everything that Grilley says is plausible and fits with common sense.
The first DVD also has a demonstration of three beautiful yang yoga sequences, performed by Suzee Grilley, and a joint one performed by both Paul and Suzee called Flying Dragon. The main demonstration of yin yoga is on the second DVD, along with three rather simpler short yang practices. It's also possible to view a combination of these simple practices multiple times, making up to 33 minutes of an extended yang practice. One can do this before or after one's yin practice to get one more flexible or to revive one's body after spending a longer time putting stress on one's joints.
There are three main yin sequences: hip series, spine series and infant series. The first is 70 minutes, while other two are just over an hour. In all three, Paul Grilley gives instruction about how to do the postures while 2 or 4 people demonstrate them. It is also possible to choose them with an alternate audio track which leaves out his longer discussion and only includes the instructions about how to hold one's body, and this might be very welcome once one has done the practices a few times.
In the Hip Series, the postures of course aim to help with the flexibility of the hip joints. Two men and two women demonstrate the sequence, holding postures for 4 or 5 minutes or more. Since they have different levels of flexibility, they take on different bodily positions, and it is helpful to see how they vary. The Spine Series focuses on the pelvis, sacrum and spine with the same four practitioners. The Infant Series works mainly on the spine, mimicking the development over time of an infant, and is more gentle than the other two series. It is demonstrated by two women.
The second DVD also has a bonus feature of 5 other practices, each around 25 minutes long: two opening ones, called Butterfly and Dragon, and three closing ones, Snail and Roots, Shoelace, and Saddle. These are all narrated with minimal instruction by Paul Grilley again, but they are demonstrated with a series of slides.
The quality of the production is good. The material on both DVDs is filmed in a larger room with a wooden floor, light yellow walls with some fabric decoration on the walls. The sound quality is good and the camerawork and editing are fine. The only problems I had with the DVD were when playing it on my computer using RealPlayer or Windows Media Player, where I found that the time counter did not accurately display how far through a series you were, it was not possible to drag the time indicator along to advance to a later point in a series; one had to use fast forward or section-advance buttons instead. But those are minor flaws.
Few people will need to watch the "theory" part of this package more than once. The practice part on the second DVD is nicely done, and Grilley is a good guide. He understands well the experience of holding these poses for a long time, which can be a challenge to both the body and the mind. He provides variations for those who need them, which sometimes involve using towels or special cushions to support parts of the body. I found these yoga practices more mentally challenging than physically challenging: I could find a modification which enabled me to keep the position, and the postures are not painful in themselves. However, they do involve unusual stretches and I found myself becoming quite agitated as I experienced the unusual and sometimes intense sensations for a prolonged period of time. In order to cope with this, one needs some meditative skills with which one can notice one's state of mind and then try to return to a state of calm. Grilley addresses this sort of reaction to yin yoga at occasional points as he talks through the practices, but it still takes some getting used to. I have found that yin yoga can also bring up strong emotions that one does not generally experience during yoga. The practice of holding an unfamiliar posture for several minutes seems to give emotions the ability to surge up. It's tempting to speculate that it may be emotionally therapeutic to allow this to happen, but Grilley makes no strong claims about this.
As a whole, this is an excellent package. For experienced yoga practitioners who want to learn more about yin yoga, Grilley's DVD is the obvious place to start.
Other Yin Yoga DVDs:
© 2007 Christian Perring. All rights reserved.
Christian Perring, Ph.D., is Associate Professor of Philosophy at Dowling College, Long Island. He is also editor of Metapsychology Online Reviews. His main research is on philosophical issues in medicine, psychiatry and psychology.