Nowadays, there are so many different yoga styles and stretching protocols that it’s difficult to give a black and white answer to this question, but we can point out a couple of very distinct differences between yoga and traditional stretching of the muscles.
First, the role of breathing in yoga is immensely significant. We could say that mindful breathing and breath awareness are at least half of the practice, if not more. Calm, slow breathing has various effects on the nervous system triggering, for example, a natural relaxation response in the body that helps the body relax and open up more easily in the poses. Brains being part of our nervous system, these effects don’t happen just on a physical level but are mental as well. Breathing consciously slightly deeper also brings more oxygen into the brain and body.
Second, yoga is much more than “just stretching”. The intention is to balance the body, not just to stretch and stretch endlessly. We need both strength and flexibility in our body to function normally, and with yoga we aim to strengthen areas that are weak (also the deeper, supportive muscle layers) and increase flexibility / mobility in areas that are stiff or immobile. A dynamic yoga practice (so called Yang styles of yoga) gives you more dynamic flexibility and range of motion, whereas Yin yoga poses are rather passive and focus on releasing deeper immobility in the connective tissues (fascia).
The key to the answer is really in the word ‘balance’. In yoga, we use the movements and the breath to find balance both in the body and mind. And what’s required for each individual to strengthen this balanced state varies from one person to another.
If you’re curious about yoga, come and visit us or send us a message. We’d love to show you what yoga has to offer!
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