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Episode 154: Bernie Clark on the Benefits of Yin

Bernie Clark quote - Episode 154
The thoughtful and articulate Bernie Clark joins us on the show this week! Bernie is perhaps best known for his influential Yin yoga teachings as well as his books, The Complete Guide to Yin Yoga, and Your Body, Your Yoga.

When Jason and I shared our thoughts about Yin Yoga at the end of season 1 (episode 147), we hadn’t expected it to be so polarizing. After seeing Bernie’s response to the episode in one of his forums and after listening to you, our listeners, we asked him on the show.

We covered a lot of ground in this episode: Bernie clarified Yin’s origin story, he shared how Yin benefits him personally (and how he complements it with strength-training), as well as how he guides (even flexible students like Andrea) to discern their edge in poses. The big takeaway from the conversation? We landed on more points of agreement than points of difference. The one point of difference that remains is whether or not lengthening ligaments is a good idea. And if you’d like to research that further, check out the show notes.

RECOMMENDED AND RELATED LINKS

The following links are intended to help you take personal responsibility for your body and your practice. Our hope is that they can help you determine what resonates with you and feels right in your body.

Blog posts and citations from Bernie
In Defense of Yin Yoga
A Scientific Basis for Yin Yoga
Helen Langevin: The Science of Stretch
The Complete Guide to Yin Yoga by Bernie Clark

Citations from Jason:
“When a tendon/ligament is stretched beyond physiological limits, some fibrils be‐ gin to fail. Micro failure accumulates, stiffness is reduced and the ligament/tendon begins to fail. This occurs when intramolecular cross-links between collagen fibers fail. The tendon therefore undergoes irreversible plastic deformation. When the tendon/ligament is stretched to more than 8-10% of its original length, macroscopic failure follows.”
Injury and Repair of Ligaments and Tendons

“Dynamic or static muscle action creates internal resistance in the loaded structures (stress) that counteracts deformation (strain) of the tissue. All tissue has a characteristic ability to tolerate deformation and stress, and injuries occur when the tolerance level is exceeded. An acute injury occurs when loading is sufficient to cause irreversible deformation of the tissue, whereas an overuse injury occurs as a result of repeated overloading either in the loading itself or through inadequate recovery time between loadings. Each incidence, alone, is not enough to cause irreversible deformation, but the repeated actions can result in an injury over time.” Olympic Committee Manual of Sports Injuries: An a Guide to the Management of Injuries in Physical Activities

The Science and Physiology of Flexibility and Stretching: Implications and Applications in Sport Performance and Health, Professor David G. Behm, November 2018

Episode 147: Jason’s Take on Yin Yoga

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14 Comments

  1. Hi Jason and Andrea you guys rock…..being willing to have this conversation is what it’s all about …so many schools of yoga great to see some collaboration xx

  2. Thanks for opening up the conversation and inviting Bernie on the podcast – great to hear people with differing views sitting down and having a balanced conversation. Thanks for all the hard work and keeping the podcast going, you guys are great!

  3. As one who was upset by the original podcast, I applaud you for bringing Bernie on. And for the receptivity you both (mostly) showed to his exposition. Hopefully, all can agree that 1) Yin is a complementary practice to other forms of exercise not a stand-alone; 2) Too much of anything can be a bad thing; 3)Too little of anything (e.g. stress to joint capsules) is also a bad thing.

    Thank you for your responsiveness.

  4. I have to be honest. I was incredibly disappointed with the arrogance that I felt Jason exuded with his strong opinions on yin yoga. It was obvious to all educated yin practitioners and instructors that he didn’t know what he was talking about in many instances. He made statements as though they were facts and not his uninformed understanding. I appreciate that you tried to provide more information with having Bernie Clark on. In the future, perhaps being so decisive on something you may not fully understand will lead your listeners to trust your information less. Thanks for at least addressing this slip up.

    1. Yes, I disagree with some conclusions of Yin. This doesn’t mean I’m arrogant and I’m not misinformed. It also doesn’t mean that I’m opposed to the Yin practice. It’s clearly hugely beneficial to many. If you’d be interested in learning about how I arrived at my concerns about changing the length of ligaments, I recommend reading the resources that are linked to the story. If you read the studies that are presented in the International Olympic Committee’s primary manual and all of the other current material on the advisability of changing the length of ligaments, you’ll see that I’m not simply asserting my opinions, but agreeing with the consensus view of the current Sports Medicine and Orthopedics community. You’ll also see that we’ve posted some of Bernie’s work so that listeners can do more research on their own.

  5. Hi Jason, Andrea and Bernie.
    Thank you so much for this chat. For the sake of understanding, could you provide more citations and studies. Things mentioned such as “tissues need to be raised at 40 degrees celcius (which happens in Bikram Yoga)” mentioned.
    And any more research that might be useful to understand a lot of the concepts mentioned?
    Thanks!
    Payal

  6. Hi Jason, Andrea and Bernie. This is a fascinating, open conversation and should be kept going. We need to understand more about what we are doing physically in all styles of yoga. It would be great to have Stretching Biomechanics specialist Jules Mitchell adding her comments to the debate on Yin, Vinyasa, Bikram etc. Jenni Rawlins too as she has such a strength focus.
    Thank you for such stimulating podcasts.

  7. I was at a Yin Yang training in Napa over 10 years ago with Sarah Powers and Paul Grilley, which Bernie also attended. After listening to several interviews with Bernie, I will say that he gives no quarter, and seems not to be open-minded in his point of view. It is less of an open conversation and more of his stating his beliefs. There is much evidence that people cannot tell in the moment that they are “too deep”, can’t find their point of compression, and so on. Even two days later they may feel nothing after going “too far” into or past their edge. Poses like Dragon are especially risky to the hips in my opinion as a long time practitioner and teacher. In the end, Bernie continues to use language like “going deeper” as a desirable thing. That said, thanks for having him on your podcast. I love the podcast, and I find so much of value in it, and in Jason’s views on teaching. Thanks so much for what you two do!
    It would be great indeed to have Jules Mitchell and Jenni Rawlings on.

  8. Well done! It was refreshing to hear a well balanced conversation on the yin yoga practice, thank you!

    Yin yoga is not understood as it should be. I would encourage anyone wanting to practice yin yoga, to seek out a knowledgeable teacher, it will make ALL the difference.

    Bernie Clark’s website has good links to find a certified teacher in your area.

    Thank you Andrea, Jason and Bernie – well worth the listen.

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