Born in 1958 in Montana, Paul Grilley is now an internationally recognized yoga teacher. He is a modern and familiar American face in the global yoga scene, and nowadays trains yoga teachers in Yin Yoga with his wife Suzee Grilley in both the USA and abroad.
Most famous for his teaching of Yin Yoga that he brought to the masses from its Taoist roots through learning the practice from master Paulie Zink.
Today, Yin Yoga is a widely practiced style of yoga that emphasizes long holds, deep stretches, and relaxation, making it an excellent complement to more active forms of yoga and exercise.
Another main focus of Paul’s teaching is, in conjunction with Yin, close attention to the anatomy of the body and how this interacts with individual asana practice.
Paul offers a variety of transformative online yoga programs, including his celebrated Anatomy for Yoga.
Praised by renowned senior yoga teachers and trusted by tens of thousands of students globally, it’s a modern-day practical training course that merges anatomy and yoga practice.
His teachings help avid yoga enthusiasts become teachers, unlocking new insights and possibilities for anyone keen to deepen their understanding of the body and yoga practice.
Let’s take a look at:
- Grilley’s life and background
- Grilley’s teachings
- What he teaches today
Life And Background
Born and raised in Martin City, Montana, Paul Grilley studied at Columbia Falls high school before getting into yoga.
His path with the study and practice of yoga started in 1979, from when he read The Autobiography Of A Yogi by Paramahansa Yogananda. Paramahansa was an exceptional guru who was famous for his teaching of Kriya Yoga and interesting teacher lineage.
This book ignited a passion for yoga which saw Paul Grilley develop into a teacher. Paul has now been teaching yoga for over 4 decades!
Furthermore, Paul was equally interested in the human body from a scientific point of view, studying anatomy in the early 80s.
He moved to Los Angeles at this time, continuing both his yoga teaching and study of anatomy. In LA, he primarily taught Ashtanga and Bikram Yoga from a studio he managed.
Meeting Paulie Zink – Founder Of Yin Yoga
During his time in Los Angeles, Paul Grilley took lessons from the martial arts expert and master yoga teacher Paulie Zink.
One of many mentors (composed of yoga teachers and doctors) that shaped Paul Grilley’s perspective and practice of yoga, Paulie Zink taught Paul a variety of poses synthesized from a combination of Hatha Yoga with Taoist Yoga.
Zink’s innovative synthesis of yoga incorporated his unique postures, movements, and insights.
He initially designed this practice to help martial arts practitioners who had developed tight muscles from their rigorous training. These students needed a variety of yin poses to improve their flexibility and alleviate muscle tension.
Paulie Zink later titled this synthesis of practice as ‘Yin Yoga’.
Interestingly, Paulie Zink has published a blog on his website titled ‘Paul Grilley Got It Wrong’, in which Paulie declares that Grilley only received a beginner’s insight into his Yin Yoga practice.
This was in response to Grilley saying in 2003 that Zink only shared a prototype version of what he ended up making more spiritual and scientific.
Meeting Hiroshi Motoyama
In 1989, Grilley’s passion for yoga led him to meet the remarkable Hiroshi Motoyama – a Japanese scholar and yoga practitioner who had delved deep into the physiology of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM).
His extensive research had supposedly uncovered the secrets of the meridians, the subtle pathways and vessels that play a crucial role in TCM and acupuncture.
Motoyama was fascinated by the idea of qi – the subtle energy that flows through the meridians. He saw a connection between these ancient concepts and the nadi pathways and chakras of Indian yoga, which were believed to carry the life force known as prana.
As he explored these parallel ideas together, Paul Grilley was inspired to fuse the Yin poses he had learned from Zink with the anatomy of Hatha Yoga and the teachings of Motoyama.
The result was a unique blend of ancient wisdom and modern science that would ultimately define Paul Grilley’s teaching.
At the turn of the millennium, Paul earned a Master’s degree in anatomy.
In 2005, he was awarded an honorary Ph.D. from the California Institute for Human Science in recognition of his outstanding contribution to contemporary theories on fascia and its relevance to the practice of Hatha Yoga.
Paul Grilley’s Teachings
When it comes to teaching yoga, Paul’s approach is a unique blend of science and ancient practice. He recognizes that students come in all shapes and sizes, with varying levels of physical fitness.
He breaks down yoga to its fundamentals and stresses the importance of considering each unique body. Paul knows that no two human bodies are exactly alike, and as such, he believes that yoga cannot be taught in a uniform way.
Instead, he tailors his teachings to each individual’s unique bone structure, allowing them to maximize the benefits of their practice and avoid injury.
With this personalized approach to teaching yoga, his students experience a more inclusive and effective practice.
His method accommodates students of all physical abilities and limitations, ensuring that everyone can participate and reap the rewards of his distillation of Yin yoga.
So, what exactly is Paul’s distillation of Yin Yoga?
As mentioned, Yin Yoga was originally founded in the late 1970s by martial arts master and Taoist yoga teacher Paulie Zink. Paul Grilley studied this slow-paced, passive form of yoga, took on this practice and developed it on his own.
He now offers teaching programmes and online courses in Yin yoga across America and the rest of the world.
Yin Yoga is an interesting modern style of yoga that sets itself apart from other practices. Its slow-paced approach encourages holding asanas for longer periods of time, with some practitioners holding positions for over five minutes.
These prolonged sequences of postures aim to awaken the channels of the subtle body.
The unique focus of Yin Yoga is on applying moderate stress to the connective tissues of the body, such as tendons, fascias, and ligaments. This gentle pressure helps to boost joint circulation and increase overall flexibility.
Yin yoga takes a more introspective approach to yoga, emphasizing inner peace and interconnectedness. Yin Yoga thrives on the pillars of rest and self-care, promoting physical and mental relaxation through still and restorative poses.
Grilley explains that due to differences in bone shapes, not all individuals are capable of performing every asana. For instance, certain individuals may have longer femur necks, which can offer more flexibility in the hip joint compared to others.
Grilley also stresses that Yin yoga is not a franchise or a hybrid like Aqua yoga or Disco yoga. It is not restricted by copyright or trademark, and it is simply an alternative way of practicing yoga.
Paul and Suzee Grilley explain there are five archetypal poses that act as the foundation of Yin yoga:
- Shoelace – primary area of the body is the outer hip and thigh
- Saddle – primary areas of the body are the quads and hip flexors
- Caterpillar – primary area of the body is the spine and hamstrings
- Dragonfly – primary area of the body is the groin
- Twist – primary area of the body is the spine
All of these poses exist in some form of other yoga traditions, however, in Yin they are meant to be attained with no stress caused on the body. This way the focus is completely on the stretch and meridians.
What Paul Grilley Teaches Today
Paul Grilley offers a streamable series of courses of yoga theory and practice. With a focus on yin yoga and anatomy, he streams these via Pranamaya. Here are some favorites:
#1: Yin Yoga: The Foundations Of A Quiet Practice
This course is made up of a comprehensive practice of Yin, accompanied by Yang Yoga practice as well as lecture recordings on the theory behind the style.
Considered as a course that includes everything that you might need to know to incorporate Yin effectively into a balanced lifestyle and yogic practice.
#2: Anatomy For Yoga
Designed for yoga teachers, this course is intended to inform people of the unique musculo-skeletal anatomy of each individual.
This consistent difference between people means yoga poses may not appear the same by sight, and so Grilley explains the perspective of how different bodies naturally look different in poses.
#3: Chakra Theory And Meditation
If you’re into yoga at all, you’ve likely heard of the chakras. In this course, Grilley attempts to correlate the energetic flow of chakras with how physical yoga practice can improve spiritual and mental health.
Grilley says this programme is just as logically accessible as his anatomy program, as a practical application of chakra knowledge to transform one’s yoga practice and life.
Paul has written two books on yoga theory:
#1: A Yogi’s Guide To Chakra Meditation
The first is a synthesis of Patanjali’s ‘Eight Limbs of Yoga’ in explanation of chakra meditation.
#2: Yin Yoga: Principles And Practice
The second is an outline of practicing Yin postures, with a supporting explanation on meridian theories and how they interact with the muscles in the body.
If you’d like to learn more about Yin Yoga, take a look at our other articles on the practice itself: