First of all to the LA Times. The one thing newspapers like the LA Times used to have over TV news was something called investigative reporting. It involved finding experts and insiders who had something to say about a particular topic. The reporter would get in a rental car and go visit these insider/experts, see what they were up to, and put together a summary of their opinions and knowledge. Now any expert with something to say or insider with experience to reveal has a blog. The LA Times has lost it's reason d'etre.
The piece the LA Times published on Yin Yoga is just a puff piece for somebodies yoga teacher. Free advertising for a friend loosely veiled in the mystique of "research." Come on, the reporter googled Yin Yoga, talked to the first two people who picked up their cell phone. It took all of twenty minutes to research.
My greater sympathy goes to Paulie Zink. He is the holder of an extraordinary Daoist Lineage of Dao Yin. Dao Yin, like all things Chinese, is very hard to put in a box. It is first and foremost a hermit's expression of a life dedicated to the Teachings of Laozi. The particular lineage he holds includes master level circus and martial arts training. Did a Dao Yin hermit decide he'd had enough of the mountains and join a traveling performance troop, or did a master performer retire to the mountains? Either way Dao Yin is way more than Yin Yoga. I've never seen a yogi as good as Paulie Zink. Dao Yin technology is just higher. Regular yoga is like a computer with excellent connectivity, interface, and compatibility, but not much memory. Dao Yin is like a high speed super computer with 2000 years of memory, but little connectivity (it's best taught in a small group or one to one), an obscure interface (it requires an enormous time commitment to learn), and is useful for only two things--being in the circus or being a hermit.
Did the "founders" of Yin Yoga study with Paulie Zink? Yes they did. Was Zink the first person to use the term Yin Yoga? Probably, it sounds like something he would say. But the Yin Yoga people didn't study long enough to learn Dao Yin. What they are teaching is just smart exercise for hip urban professionals. It doesn't come close to the Dao Yin Paulie Zink practices. What they do works because it is simple and easy to learn.
Laozi's Teaching's, the Daodejing, has chapter after chapter describing the fruition of a Daoist life as "obscurity." This is not some mysterious power that will allow you to win friends and influence people, it's real obscurity. In fact, the fifth Xiang'er Precept is: Avoid Fame, Practice Obscurity. (See this article for more on Xiang'er and the Daodejing.)
A few years back, Zink moved from Hollywood to the hermit lands of Montana. He seems to be hoping that he can travel around the country and teach workshops a few times a year and perhaps pick up a few high end private students (people like Madonna?). The depth of Paulie Zink's knowledge would be appreciated in any circus town, like San Francisco or Montreal. He could live in a sound proofed apartment with a nice private garden and teach at a circus school. The one in San Francisco already has three contortion teachers, but Zink's knowledge and open hearted generosity would be a welcome addition. I've seen him take the most twisted up funky stretchy poses and turn them into loco-motor movement. Elbow stands become bunny hops with a fluffy tail. Static warrior poses become dragons skittering across the water. I'm not kidding. This stuff is amazing.
By the way, the best scenario for the origins of Shaolin gongfu (Kung Fu) is that 1000 years ago (early Sung Dynasty) someone who had learned this half-hermit, half-circus storytelling art of Dao Yin, was living in the Song Mountains around Shaolin Temple and offered to help out by teaching the orphans some discipline. Most large Temples were also orphanages. Perhaps he had given up a child to a temple many years earlier and felt guilty about it. Meir Shahar suggests in his ground braking book Shaolin Temple, that one of the roots of Shaolin is probably Dao Yin. He also says that martial arts heroes were already in the written literature of the time, the literature itself having grown out of theater!
Chinese culture doesn't fit into boxes. Most likely the development of Chinese movement culture happened in a topsy-turvy, a little bit here, a little bit there kind of way. Give a sword to a Dao Yin master and he's gonna stretch it to the limit. He's gonna do something wild and explosive, something soft and silky, something spontaneous and never seen before. That's the fruition of Dao Yin. That is the physical expression of the teachings of Laozi-- our limitless nature--Daode. (Dao= limitless unnameable nature, De=a person's unique expression of Dao.)
Dao Yin is a treasure. The version I learned doesn't have all the circus stuff or martial arts in it. So in some senses it is a lot easier to learn than Paulie Zink's material. But what I learned is still a hermit practice. In order to practice I built a dedicated elivated room in my isolated apartment. I called it the sky palace. When I moved, I dropped that practice. Modern Qigong is namby pamby soft and flowery compared to Dao Yin. The Dao Yin I learned is a little like yoga but it's noisy and rambunctious, it gives you bruises, and must be practiced everyday with for at least 3 hours with meditation. Zink's Dao Yin probably requires closer to 8 hours of practice a day. Dao Yin doesn't make you feel like putting on a suit and heading to the office, it makes you feel like spontaneously doing nothing. Perhaps it would be unfair to call it the art of disciplined fooling around, but you get the idea.
When I met Paulie Zink in LA at a workshop he was teaching, he was traveling with a disciple who lived with him in Montana and seemed to be learning everything. I'm very happy about that. His disciple spoke very little. I asked him a few questions and I had to lean in close to hear soft spoken answers delivered directly from his heart. A natural hermit. Paulie Zink's oldest student also came into town for the workshop. He was very generous to me, answered questions and gave me some tips; he lives in a high desert town I'd never heard of halfway between LA and Las Vegas. He too is a Hermit.
Here is his youtube channel.