Stretching vs. Yoga: understanding the differences

Stretching vs. Yoga: understanding the differences

Your hamstrings are tight, your lower back aches, and your neck and shoulders are clenched from too many hours staring at a screen. Do you need a good stretch, or should you sign up for yoga class? What’s the difference between the two?

At first sight, yoga and stretching seem to be very  similar. Both yoga and stretching are good for your muscles, as they allow them to relax after some strength training session or after a long working day. They help in relieving tightness and you start feeling much better. Second, both types of workouts can target all the main muscle groups. Third, some of the movements look quite similar. Taking into account these three similarities, it is quite clear why some people tend to confuse yoga and stretching.

Both activities are approached with intention.

  • In stretching, the intention is to lengthen muscles and make them more flexible while increasing the range of motion around a joint. Stretches target an isolated muscle or muscle group.
  • In yoga, the intention is mind-body awareness, balance, and strength. Yoga is an ancient mental, spiritual, and physical discipline designed for holistic mastery over body and mind in a quest to achieve enlightenment.

So, stretching is about muscles, mobility, athletic competition, personal bests, and injury prevention. Yoga is about whole-body harmony, improving control, and incorporating breathing, mindful focus.

Stretching improves range of motion, leading to better athletic performance and lowered risk of injury in everyday activities. A good stretch boosts the blood flow to your muscles, increasing vigor and energy, relieving stress and tension. Regularly stretching muscles can slow the effects of aging, improve balance and posture, and speed recovery from hard exercise.

Yoga also improves flexibility and range of motion, but the weight-bearing poses build strength, the breathing exercises expand lung capacity and oxygen absorption, and holding the pose deepens the stretch, resulting in better circulation and lower blood pressure.

Who can do yoga & stretching ?

Anyone can do yoga just as anyone can (and should) stretch. However, yoga workouts are designed for different ability levels. Some poses take many years to achieve and are impossible before your body has developed the necessary strength and openness.

Stretching is accessible to everyone. Although you may find that you are unable to get deep into some stretches( or to perform splits for the first time) you will receive the same benefits as someone who is extremely flexible in the same muscle. Also stretching can help you to get faster into some yoga poses. 

Who Needs to Stretch?

Everybody needs to stretch. 

If you sit in front of a computer for hours at work, sit in your car to commute,etc you are killing your hamstrings, ignoring your abs, and stressing your shoulders and back. Daily stretches will keep you from eventually moving through life like a crab.

If you’ve been injured, your medical provider may prescribe stretching to help rehabilitate the injury or revive an immobilized joint.

  • If you play sports, repetitive motion will overdevelop some muscles and ignore others, leading to imbalance and tightness. Stretching can prevent this and keep you injury-free.
  • If stress is your game – and it probably is if you’re alive – stretching helps. Stretching lowers stress by relaxing your mind.

If you have to choose between stretching vs yoga, you need to decide what you are looking to gain from it.

If you want to add an extra workout to your training that focuses on breathing, strength, and balance, among other things, opt for yoga. If you want to improve performance with regular training, return after an injury, or improve your flexibility in a particular area of the body, stretching is the better option. 

However, you don’t actually need to choose!

Stretching can be a gamechanger in your yoga practice. An active yoga practice can certainly build strength according to Yoga Journal. But it may also challenge some muscles without equally challenging their opposing muscles, or antagonists, leaving many yogis feeling muscularly unbalanced.

This is where stretching plays a huge role. When you do stretch exercises, you can actually become much better at yoga! By holding your body for longer in certain positions, you:

  • Reduce the chance of getting injured as your body has a greater range of motion
  • Enhance your flexibility and ability to go deeper in certain yoga asanas
  • Help balance those body parts that you might have neglected in your yoga practice – e.g., your lower and upper back, your glutes or your shoulders

Therefore, combining yoga with stretching can work really well!

Want to stretch more?

  • Try our 7- day free trial – access all our weekly classes and attend as many live and replay sessions as you want to
  • Special offer – if you’re ready to commit, why don’t you purchase one of our memberships? We have a variety of clases from Full Body Stretch, to Stretch for Desk Workers and even Barre & Stretch fusion. We during the next 3 months we offer 50% off to ALL MEMBERSHIPS (for new sign ups)

Looking forward to seeing you on the mat!

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