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.


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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  1. Thank you for this great episod!!! Bernie Clark is such an inspirational person! Thanks a million for this podcast!

    • You’re welcome! Andrea

  2. 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

    • Thank you! We appreciate the support 🙂 Andrea

  3. 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!

    • Thanks so much for the feedback, David. — Andrea

  4. 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.

    • Thanks, Zeke!

  5. 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.

    • 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.

  6. 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?

  7. 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.

  8. 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.

  9. 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.

  10. Thank you Jason for trying to create critical thinkers as we practice and teach yoga. I am one of those long time teachers trying to evolve my teaching into more functional movement/strength and Jason has been an inspiration in this transition.

    I am married to a Physical Therapist/Athletic trainer and I taught him some yin stretches many years ago. He has been using them with his patients (he calls it traction), and getting good results. I told him about this conversation and he had two ideas which may help people as they make their own decision about yin. He said in his experience of injuries with over stretched ligaments it happen during ballistic movement. And second, he thought as long as the stretch was biomechanically sound, it would be fine. For example the old fashioned “hurdlers stretch” is not safe for the ligaments of the knee.

    Anyway….thanks again Jason and Andrea for this teaching forum. And here’s to stronger gluts for all of us!
    Deep Bow,
    Viki D

  11. I totally agree with Bernie on yin yoga background and its philosophy

    But I strongly agree with Jason on the ligaments health

    Ligaments are there to hold the bones together for the purpose of stability and therefore should not be stretched but stressed for sure for tissue health (I know few people are extraordinary to go beyond any levels but they are only 5-10 % of whole world population, so we can avoid them)

    Muscle contractions will only safeguard the joints by keeping space between them thus preventing them from any unhealthy compressions

    Many Yogis around the world are getting injured just because of these misunderstandings and misleading informations by few experts …

    Yin yoga is good for people in the beginning that also for specific joint which is not mobile maybe at the moment (there are many other factors behind it, which require whole anatomical knowledge that how and why some joints are not functioning the way they should)

    It’s not always stretch which will solve the problems, there might be some muscle imbalance leading to over active muscle which further leads to tightness and affects joint mobility, so just by sitting on the bolster and resting the body on the chair won’t make the miracles (at least for the physical limitations)

    All yoga teachers should be having some anatomical and Biomechanical background before making anyone move

    You are playing with a live bodies and that too on a subtle level

    I still feel that question was not answered regarding ligaments and hope Jason also agree with this that Bernie couldn’t distinguish between stress for development of tissue and tensile stress while might elongate the ligaments which should not be done as they hold the structure together.

    But this topic has to be understood well by yoga teachers to prevent injuries among their clients

    Nice conversation.. Food job Jason and Andrea

    Thanks Bernie for coming and giving your insight

  12. Good morning. I want to share some thoughts about the podcast that have been marinating for me for quite some time…these thoughts are difficult to share. I have thoroughly enjoyed the podcast for a long time, gleaning much knowledge from the variety of guests Andrea has had on the show. I love Andrea’s thoughtful intelligent responses and how she allows her guests space. I too have been following Jason for many years and enjoy his teaching style. However, I am growing impatient with what feels to me like the pedantic mansplaining of the Jason Crandell show. I was a vinyasa teacher for many years, and now teach only yin. I have trained with Bernie Clark and have the utmost respect for him. It angered me to hear Jason go on and on about a subject he has not explored or even participated in. Because he is on the show so much I am not getting the open approach Andrea used in her interviews, and I feel she is on the back burner. I did listen to the last podcast and I get that Andrea is seeing a need to retool her podcast. I get it. You’re building a brand. Unfortunately the podcast is not resonating with me anymore, and I will be probably not be listening as much as I was. I wish you the best.


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